Archived conflict (updated: January 2000)

The Tajikistan armed conflict ended in 2000 when the 1997 negotiated settlement appeared to take hold amid a second year of few reported conflict deaths. Following presidential and parliamentary elections, the Commission on National Reconciliation and other international peacebuilding instruments began to withdraw.

Summary
Type of Conflict
Parties to the Conflict
Status of the Fighting
Number of Deaths
Political Developments
Background
Arms Sources

Summary:

1999 Tajikistan’s security situation improved in 1999, though competing government forces, former opposition groups, and independent warlords were responsible for a number of killings. There were no independent figures for conflict deaths during the year.

1998 Despite the previous year’s cease-fire agreement, renewed battles between government forces, the United Tajik Opposition, and various clan leaders, along with disappearances, raids, and extrajudicial killings marked 1998 as a year of renewed bloodshed. However, the intensity of the fighting and the number of deaths, estimated at 70-100, was low compared to the early years of the conflict.

 

Type of Conflict:

State control

 

Parties to the Conflict:

1) Government, under President Emomali Rahmonov:

Armed Forces;

Tajik Border Forces (TBF).

2) Rebels:

United Tajik Opposition (UTO) — an umbrella organization for several groups.

 

Status of Fighting:

1999 Conflict violence declined in 1999, though a number of political and extrajudicial killings were linked to competing government forces, former opposition groups, and independent warlords.

“There were a number of extrajudicial killings; however, it was difficult to estimate the number or to attribute responsibility in many cases. Some killings were committed by competing government forces for varying motives, both political and economic. … The Government also has laid numerous minefields along the border with Afghanistan, although the primary victims are believed to be border infiltrators. Some killings were committed by former opposition forces, and others by independent warlords answering to neither the Government nor the opposition.” [Tajikistan Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1999, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, US State Department, 2000]

1998 Despite the previous year’s cease-fire agreement, renewed battles between government forces, the United Tajik Opposition, and various clan leaders, along with disappearances, raids, and extrajudicial killings marked 1998 as a year of renewed bloodshed.

“Armed conflict between the government and the UTO, ongoing internal power struggles, and infighting and clashes within both camps were symptomatic of the fragile control the government and the UTO had over their respective military forces and the various armed factions” dissatisfaction with the peace process. When government-UTO fighting broke out just east of Dushanbe in mid-January, tensions mounted steadily until mid-March, when events erupted into full-scale combat and a prolonged military stand-off in the Kofarnikhon area. At least several civilians were killed and scores were forcibly displaced. The two sides clashed again from April 30 to May 2. Human Rights Watch gathered testimony in the Karategin area pointing to disproportionate and indiscriminate force by government forces during the hostilities, and to rape, torture, and the looting and torching of civilian homes. Civilian deaths numbered at least twenty-five. In mid-July and at the end of August, fighting once again broke out among UTO groups in and close to Tajikabad. Elements of the Tajik Border Forces were allegedly responsible for gross violations including rape, theft, and looting in Pianj and Shaartuz.” [Tajikistan Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, US State Department, 1999]

 

Number of Deaths:

Total: The war is estimated to have killed about 50,000 people, most of them in 1992.

1999 Several people were killed in conflict violence during the year, but independent figures were not available.

1998 The number of deaths in 1998, estimated at 70-100, was low compared to casualty figures in the early years of the conflict.

“Political instability and a weak central command characterized most parts of the country, but tensions were at their greatest in Dushanbe, where both government and opposition figures were assassinated and attacked, politically-motivated bombings continued, and high levels of murder and other crimes fostered an atmosphere of insecurity.” [Tajikistan Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, US State Department, 1999]

“Tajik officials had no details of what sparked the fresh fighting in the former Soviet Republic’s troubled Kofarnikhon region. Around 50 government servicemen were killed in similar clashes last month in the region and more than 100 were captured by the Islamists, who have not announced their losses.” [NewsChannel, April 30, 1998]

 

Political Developments:

1999 In November, President Emomali Rahmonov was reelected in elections that were neither free nor fair. Flawed electoral rules and government interference made it difficult for the opposition candidates to compete with Rahmonov.

“The law on presidential elections required signatures constituting 5 percent of the electorate for nomination of candidates, an excessively prohibitive figure; it also lacked adequate provisions for media access and coverage. Amidst widespread expectations throughout the population that the ballot would be seriously flawed and that no substantial changes would be forthcoming, the presidential elections nonetheless risked becoming a farcical procedure when in mid-October the three opposition candidates decided to boycott the poll. They claimed that local government officials had prevented them from collecting the signatures necessary for candidate registration. In a last-minute effort to preserve the veneer of the democratic procedure, the government granted the Islamic Renaissance Party candidate registration just two weeks before the elections.” [Human Rights Watch World Report, 2000]

1998 Following a year of high hopes for peace due to the comprehensive peace accords, Tajikistan fell back into conflict in mid-March when opposition fighters attacked government troops. There were no new peace talks during 1998.

1997 Minor outbreaks of fighting took place — but on the whole the ceasefire of 1996 held throughout 1997. A comprehensive peace accord was signed in June and a Commission on National Reconciliation was inaugurated in July. Under the peace accord, the opposition was to be allotted 30 per cent of government positions. The peace of 1997 reached its most perilous stage in November when thousands of rebels took control of the city of Khudzhand.
Background:
Efforts by democratic and Islamic groups to dislodge the communist government of Tajikistan culminated in 1992 in a full-scale civil war that ultimately split primarily along regional/clan lines. Armed intervention from Russia and Uzbekistan in the fall of 1992 enabled the Leninabad and Kulyabi factions (which dominated the former government) to defeat the Pamiri factions and take control of the country. A Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Collective Peacekeeping Force (composed of Russian troops and nominal contingents from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan), serving mainly to prop up the government, was deployed in mid-1993. Additional troops from Russia and elsewhere help police the Tajik-Afghan border. A small UN force, the UN Mission of Observers in Tajikistan (UNMOT), was deployed in December 1994.

In December 1996, the government and the United Tajik Opposition signed a framework agreement on national reconciliation, calling for completion of a peace agreement in 1997, and agreed to observe a ceasefire in the interim. Minor outbreaks of fighting took place — but on the whole the ceasefire held throughout 1997. A comprehensive peace accord was signed in June and a Commission on National Reconciliation was inaugurated in July. Under the peace accord, the opposition was to be allotted 30 per cent of government positions. However, by early 1998 the peace process was breaking down as both parties to the agreement appeared to lack control over disaffected troops.

Arms Sources:
The government uses Russian and inherited ex-Soviet weaponry; the rebels primarily use captured weaponry and weapons supplied by supporters in Afghanistan.

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