Tensions remain high in Kyrgyzstan’s ethnically-divided south where angry protesters have given the country’s interim leader a stormy reception.
The south is a stronghold of ousted President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Demonstrators said living standards had fallen since he was toppled in an uprising in April and Roza Otunbayeva’s administration came to power. They also rejected a referendum this Sunday on reforming the constitution.
The vote is needed to guarantee stability in the Central Asian country, according to Otunbayeva. Critics claim it is aimed at strengthening her government and could cause fresh unrest.
The context could not be more explosive. Violence between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbek communities turned the cites of Jalal-Abad and Osh into a battleground earlier this month. Up to 2,000 people may have been killed.
Some of the 400,000 ethnic Uzbeks who sought refuge in neighbouring Uzbekistan have been returning home. But a grim sight met many as they headed back over the border into southern Kyrgyzstan – widespread destruction and burned out homes.