Libmonster ID: TJ-235
Author(s) of the publication: ARNE C. SEIFERT

There can be no doubt that the international efforts towards a settlement of the conflict in Tajikistan, for which some forty-five international and regional organizations, including the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), deployed field missions and allocated sizable resources have been helpful in finding compromises between the two major parties to the Tajik civil war - compromises in a sense that extinguishing the "fire" was the first thing to do, so that the situation could cool down which, in itself is important for productive peace-building endeavours. These conflict management efforts have furnished a great deal of knowledge and insight into the specifics which external actors should in future take into account when having to deal with or seeking to prevent societal conflict under analogous or similar conditions of system transformation.

In this context, three questions may be of particular interest. Firstly, what is the source of the major political difficulties that confront both international organizations and governments in handling intra-societal conflicts? Secondly, whether and to what extent available experiences of international and non-governmental organizations can be generalized to design a particularized type of instrumentalities which would be suitable to address the "violent intra-societal type of conflict". And, thirdly, what should be the direction and substance of such approaches and instrumentalities? 1


In April 1994, inter-Tajik talks started between the Tajik government and the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) with a view to ending the civil war being waged between them. These talks, held under United Nations auspices, were concluded in Moscow on 27 June 1997 with a General Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and National Accord and a Moscow Declaration. These documents were signed by President Emomali Rakhmonov, UTO leader Sayed Abdullo Nuri and Gerd D. Merrem, the UN Secretary- General's Special Envoy for Tajikistan and chief of UNMOT.

The Moscow Declaration, in essence, summarized the accords reached between the two Tajik parties to the negotiations, which had been conducted with major involvement of the UN. Its main parts are separate protocols which contain fundamental guidelines for peace and national accord in Tajikistan, political aspects of a 12 to 18 months' period of transition to new parliamentary elections, the functions and powers of a Commission on National Reconciliation (CNR) as well as military issues, provisions for the repatriation of refugees, and guarantees for the observance of the General Agreement.

The period of transition to a democratically elected parliament offers a chance for the Tajiks to change the direction of their society's evolution and move towards democracy and the rule of law, towards restoring the socio-economic basis of their living and towards achieving a national consensus. The UN Secretary-General himself noted, though, that the General Agreement and the separate protocols "constitute a broad mandate for political change but do not themselves provide a detailed blueprint" 2 . I will be reverting to the results of external conflict management efforts in a chapter of this paper below.

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In 1991, after proclamations of independence following the break-up of the USSR, the Central Asian states were faced with crucial options as to the kind of social system and form of government they wanted to introduce. While in most of these countries figures from the former leaderships decided the issue "from the top", a sharp conflict flared up in Tajikistan, which the rival sides pushed up to civil war (1992/93). Two groups emerged as the chief warring factions: the Popular Front with today's President Rakhmonov and a coalition of opposition parties' representatives (UTO) with the Islamic Rebirth Party (IRP) as its dominant constituent. By the end of 1992 the Popular Front seemed to have won on the military battlefield.

The leaderships of the IRP and partially of other oppositional parties fled the country to seek exile, mostly in Iran, Afghanistan and Russia. UTO launched active warfare against the Tajik government around President Rakhmonov from the northern regions of Afghanistan ordering its "mujaheddin" to infiltrate Tajikistan militarily.

Under the revealing "logic" of the fierce civil war, the core issue of the dispute has become clearer than it was at the beginning of the war. While the evident interest of both groups is exercising power, the issue of contention in the back-ground has been and is about Tajikistan's future political system. In this regard it is one of the sides in the conflict, UTO, and in it, first and foremost, an influential segment of the IRP, who want to see Tajikistan transform into an Islamic state in the long run.

Domestic controversies developed fairly early, under the influence of perestroika, as a political opposition was emerging and confronting the old Soviet-Tajik nomenklatura. In content, their argument was initially about matters of democratization and pluralism, but soon shifted to the negative impact the Soviet policy on nationalities had on the Tajik society. Following the Declaration of National Independence of the Republic of Tajikistan on 9 September 1991, that argument de facto turned into a factional clash over the character of the political system. That led to the question who was eligible to be in power, followed by recourse to armed force to decide the issue.

The principal supports of opposition were a party called Tajik Popular Movement (Rastokhez), existing since September 1989; the Democratic Party of Tajikistan (DP), founded in August 1990, and the Islamic Rebirth Party, launched in October 1990. Although they had different orientations (the DP and Rastokhez with secular and the IRP 3 with Islamic concepts), these parties were in agreement on the essential aspects of a political reorientation for Tajikistan towards independent statehood, building a democratic state where fundamental freedoms and human rights would be guaranteed, a market type of economy, and reinvigorating the foundations of Tajik nationhood and identity (language, culture, religion, history).

This line-up of alternative political parties and movements constituted a force that was determined to challenge the Soviet leadership over the Tajik society's way of evolution at the threshold to sovereign statehood, and to prevail in this dispute, of course. These things were the political backdrop to the phenomenon which Tajik democrats still proudly call "the Tajik revolution", regardless of the tragedy of the civil war. In fact, this "Tajik revolution" and the civil war subsequent, is what makes the difference between the system transformation in Tajikistan and the one in all the other Central Asian states.

But the fierceness of that clash was not due to the level of ideological and political antagonisms alone. More decisive were the collisions between the principal actors' regional interests, which were surfacing as the cohesive bonds of the Soviet system of centralized governance were breaking loose, making room for those interests to be pushed ahead in mutually competitive moves to redivide the positions of political and economic power. The old, Soviet-made concept of centralized governance being in agony, the traditional fragmentation of Tajik society into regional (ethnic, cultural, economic, political) groups caused the state to lose what had made up its strength: national facelessness. As long as the centralized state had been functional in that kind of set-up, with the Tajiks not in a position to choose a national face for their own state, facelessness was of help to the state in wrapping a uniform mantle around the

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regions. But when the Soviet-made centralized system became crisis-stricken and contestable, its strength from national facelessness turned into its greatest weakness. That very moment, the regional elites set out to give the state a Tajik face and were competing with one another about which of them would model that face: the Kulyabi, the Leninabad, the Karategin or other factions.

The OSCE envoy and, later, first chief of the OSCE mission to Tajikistan, Olivier Roy, reported after the fact-finding tour he made to explore the Tajik civil war and its causes: "This war has been waged on the basis of regionalist rather than ideological division" 4 .

The parliamentary elections in February 1995, in particular, were a kind of watershed for the evolution of the civil war insofar as they produced a Kulyabi-dominated parliament. The subsequent adoption of a constitution, with its contents again determined by the same Kulyabi elite, and Rakhmonov's election as state president marked a temporary end to the constitutional self-appointment of the leading Kulyabi clans as the country's governing elite.

In this way, a kind of 'clan oligarchy' issued from the Tajik civil war. This term may be appropriate to describe a regime in which a small faction, whose leaders mostly come from one regional clan group, have gained and are maintaining political and economic power for themselves and their group.

Thus, the country had at its top an association of people whose primary objective consisted in seeking and yielding power for the sake of what were in fact their own particularist interests. It should prove decisive for their methods in the pursuit of this objective that their stock of political experience had greatly been moulded by the Soviet political culture where power politics in the sense of the "antagonist class question "Who dominates Whom?"" used to be central to critical policy decisions. The Kulyabi elite's representatives believed that this approach was 'the right one' as they had to hold their ground against the opposition - a belief constantly regenerated by the pressures they felt in the war against UTO.

Now in power, that group began organizing Tajikistan as 'its state'. It did not only occupy all the commanding heights in the state-center and the other regions but also tailored the legislation of the young Tajik state and all political and economic systems according to its respective interests.

From that moment at the latest, the Tajik conflict in essence transcended the bounds of a struggle for power between two actors, since the above-mentioned development had an essential impact on the entire transformation and state-building process: A regional segment of society was shifting the priority aim of the societal transformation process from representative democracy to a dictatorial clan oligarchy.

That entailed far-reaching consequences, firstly in terms of the perception of the opponent(s) and, secondly, by activating the regionalist factor. Let me make a few explanatory remarks on these two aspects.

Regional-particularist power interests of the Kulyabi-dominated party to the civil war determined their perception of the opponent in the sense of what Bernhard J. Trautner calls a "zero-sum configuration: The gain by one side can only be as great as the loss by the other side. Especially in ideological/religious conflicts and national power struggles the perception of the actors is frequently all or nothing" 5 .

It was due to the logic behind this kind of perception that not only their direct adversary in the military conflict but also all other political actors who were challenging their autocratic regime on political, ideological or regionalist grounds, or were personal competitors, were regarded as adversaries. This stereotype was so deeply rooted that it sometimes resulted in tactical shortsightedness where advantages for their own side were really obvious.

It was very difficult for OSCE representatives to bring it home to members of the government camp that a policy of democratic opening would be more advantageous for them than any repressive policy, say against political rivals, democratic institutions and the media, or on human rights. Whenever relevant propositions were made in a way that gave our partners a chance to calculate what would be the lesser of two evils for them, our mutual contacts proved

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more productive than confrontational criticism would have been, because this approach did not require them to abandon positions they did not want to give up voluntarily. The reasoning behind the stereotype concept of the enemy described above also meant that any diplomatic move that was directed "against" our partners rather than taking them "on board" was doomed to failure.

The installation of the Kulyabi clan oligarchy had the following effects in Tajik society as a whole:

Firstly, it preserved the basic defect in the political system of the Soviet Tajik republic, which was modelled on the general Soviet pattern, as well as the incongruity of historically grown and traditionally rooted, mostly regionally organized social structures of a majority population with the centralistic organization of the state and its machinery administering this majority;

Secondly, the monopolization of power by the clan oligarchy revitalized the regionalist factor and its immanent potency of political opposition across the country to an extent reaching beyond the two conflict parties proper. The kind of threat perception on the part of the clan oligarchy I have described above provoked the elites of the other regional clans and family-groups as well as those of national minorities and political parties. This effect was assisted by the climate of public anarchy, caused by the civil war and the sweeping economic and moral devastation brought in its wake.

The de facto monopoly of the political and economic controls in the hands of the Kulyabi-dominated, centralized state stimulated the other regional elites to enforce their own interests in the same robust manner. Their local motivations were reinforced by controversies about the division of state property and its privatization which the international financial institutions urged to be speeded up in order to enhance the macroeconomic conditions for the operation of a free market system. Another factor was a mechanism which has been characteristic of the behaviour of elites in transformation processes in all the CIS states: the drive to gain political power and to translate it, as fast as possible and irreversibly, into ownership of material property and economic influence.

The mix consisting of monopolized power for a clan oligarchy, a specific threat perception, and the "virulence of the regionalist factor" caused by the civil war produced a logic for subsequent developments in Tajik society which had far-reaching political consequences.

Firstly, the regional elites, clans and family-groups started to monopolize, de facto for themselves, the means of access to economic resources and to sources of revenue or profit in their respective spheres of influence. Rivalry over such privileges triggered off fierce clashes, setting field commanders and key political and/or economic figures at the central, regional, municipal or local level against one another. One can very well guess that the use of armed force in these clashes was probably not much less than in the actual war.

Although and inasmuch as the struggle for resources is not yet over (the opposition returned from exile being very likely to intervene strongly), it is safe to assume that the well-placed regional elites are by now unwilling to forego their advantage and share their "hard-won" access to resources with the central power.

All things considered, the Tajik economy as a single organism has practically disappeared. Prof. Kayumov, director of the Tajik Institute for Strategic Studies, goes even further and speaks of a "disintegration of the single economic and political space" 6 .

Secondly, changing coalitions among regional clan forces in pursuit of their particularist goals in the war and by means of war effectively prepared the ground for another developing conflict: the one between the Kulyabi-dominated central regime and most of the other regions. This conflict built up on tensions between the "centre" and the northern province of Leninabad, the eastern region of the Pamir mountain range foothills (Karategin) under the control of UTO field commanders, and the autonomous area of Gorno-Badakhshan (Pamir).

The aforementioned logic behind the processes in Tajik society, which were set off by changes in the conflict situation following the clan oligarchy's take-over, did not just increase

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the number of the actors involved; the latter virtually "atomized" the Tajik social organism by splitting it up into its traditional elements: regions, clans, and family groups. This seems to have been the main reason for the much-cited risk of the conflict causing an "Afghanization" of Tajikistan, which may easily happen if the conflict is not resolved in a "democratic" way.

To gain a fuller understanding of how the conflict developed, it seems useful to add that in the same measure as armed fighting was spreading across the nation, the acceptance and support within society for the two belligerent sides was shrinking. Commencing sometime in summer 1996, there were manifestations of great dissatisfaction with all those who were continuing the war and armed attacks. Especially the two major war- making actors, the government and UTO, came in for heavy criticism.

This was the background for an 'internal opposition' to appear. Its activists were people whose concerns may by described as democratic, humanist and patriotic. Its key figures, among them highly respected women, came from the former Islamic-democratic opposition camp, and they criticized both the government and UTO. Prominent members of the DP such as ex-ministers of the 1992 coalition government, of Rastokhez and Lali Badakhshan, belonged to this group. They blamed their former ally, the IRP, and especially its influential leader, Turajonsoda, for an inacceptable drifting, away to Islamist positions and for recourse to violence as the preferred means of settling the conflict. This furthered the ongoing process of division within the DP. Since that opposition group felt that they and their political views were no longer represented by UTO, they refused to attend, as part of the UTO delegation, the inter-Tajik talks in Ashkhabad in July 1996, which Turadjonsoda was trying to persuade them to agree to.

This new development signalled to the UTO leaders that their political support within the former Islamic-democratic camp was crumbling.

A second group of personalities opposed the government chiefly on grounds of politico- regionalist interests, compounded by a motivation which was rather close to that of the first-mentioned group. The Leninabad Bloc of National Rebirth around Abdulmalik Abdullajanov, ex-prime minister and Rakhmonov's competitor in the presidential contest of 1994, assumed a leading role in this group.

All these developments worked up the sub-conflict between the centre and the regions. Mass protests took place, notably in the important northern Leninabad province, against the majorization policy the Kulyabi-dominated central regime in Dushanbe was pushing forward with in this like all the other regions. Majorization mainly consisted in giving key posts in the security and economic branches of regional administrations to persons handpicked by Rakhmonov. The events in Leninabad in spring 1997 ushered in further clashes, which reached a climax with an attempt on President Rakhmonov's life in Khojent in May.

For the first time after the 1992 civil war, the centre versus regions sub-conflict flared up militarily between Dushanbe and the southern regional centre of Kurgan-Tube at the beginning of 1996. Starting from there, Mahmoud Khudoiberdiev, field commander of the Popular Front and commander of the 1st brigade, and later deputy commander of the Presidential Guards, marched onto Dushanbe to confront the president with an ultimatum demanding changes in the top echelons of the government. The president yielded. Tension also increased between the central regime and the Popular Front's field commanders in the Hissar/Turzunsade region bordering on Dushanbe. These events again pointed to ethnic contours of the sub-conflict, because the regions involved were Uzbek-dominated.

Additionally, the situation at that time was marked by factional strife within the Rakhmonov camp and within UTO, essentially on two things: firstly, on the preservation or redivision of the political, economic, military and regional (territorial) domains of some clans and family-groups, represented by former field commanders and heads of administration. The issues were concrete ones, and in most cases they centred on access to sources of revenue.

This aspect was of great political import inasmuch as it added more fuel to the sub- conflict over resources. In the same measure as the course of the inter-Tajik talks was betraying a

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tendency of a power-sharing compromise between the two major actors, the logic immanent in what is described above as a specific, post-communist concept of guarding power in the process of social transformation was increasingly taking effect. Under the pressures of transformation towards a market economy system, the hard core of this concept seems to consist in that the partakers of clan oligarchy, like all other segments of society, view the speediest possible and irreversible advancement from political power to ownership of material property as the key purpose of wielding power. In fact, they regard political power as a kind of property which, like economic property, should rather not be shared. So, any proposed political power-sharing has automatically been understood to mean sharing economic power as well.

All those individual actors - clans and family-groups, field commanders, Hukumat chiefs and others - who were being kept away from the political 'power deal' between the government and UTO, sensed almost instinctively that they were going to see another round of fresh or renewed divisions of property and of redistributing access to resources, where they would run the risk of losing what they had "conquered" as a result of the war and its aftermath.

In this context, the category of mafia-like criminal economic structures, especially drug- trafficking, has gained particular importance or even prominence for itself. Dating back to the times of the USSR and persisting through the years after the civil war, there has been a kind of interpenetration of the mafia economic structures with those of the clan oligarchy, the motto being: "One good turn deserves another".

Fears that the division of property could be affected by the imminent governmenl-UTO power deal were not unfounded. The government accelerated the privatization process as the negotiating process proceeded. Their internally proclaimed target was to have the corpora-tization of the state-owned industries by and large completed by September 1997. An influential group of the clan oligarchy indeed ensured that the bulk of the vital state-owned companies in the central and southern regions passed into their hands.

What has been explained above in regard to the logic behind the post-communist concept of economic and political power opened up another major source of factional dispute, viz. over the question whether to agree to any power-sharing by way of compromise with the conflict adversary, or rather to continue the war until the adversary would be destroyed once and for all, whatever the cost. This was the background to unfolding controversies between those who wanted to have the military conflict settled as soon as possible (the "compromise faction"), and those who preferred continuing the war (the "irreconcilables").

The former, having realized the war-wariness and the government's isolation within the population, had come to the conclusion that continuing the war would pose greater risks for their staying in power than ending the war. Their rationale was "sharing power is better than having none". Quite a few in this 'compromise faction' were responsive to the general sentiment that a national catastrophe should be avoided because it might result in an "Afghanization" of the civil war, with the potential danger of a cleavage and dissolution of the Tajik state.

Indications of war-wariness within UTO also induced pressure in favour of a peaceful settlement. A move made by regional commander Nizomov in the Karetegin valley may serve as an example. He proposed to the government to conclude a ceasefire agreement. His personal initiative caused sharp controversy, both within the UTO leadership and the government camp, about whether to end the civil war and make compromises or to stay adamant. Things even went to a point where Nizomov's life was in danger.

Following arrangements for contact and mediation by UNMOT, and by Gerd D. Merrem personally, a ceasefire was finally agreed on 16 September. It could be regarded as a first major indicator of movement within the two warring camps towards envisaging an alternative to violence and an end to the conflict.

Essential changes in the regional setting of conflict management efforts, details of which I would prefer to leave out from this expose, also contributed significantly to this turn of events.

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The developments described marked a heyday for the aforementioned conflict perception pattern of a "zero-sum configuration: the gain by one side can only be as great as the loss by the other side". The greater the number of regional and military actors whom the conflict over resources (physical conflict material) entangled in the political issues of ending the civil war (political system/ideology = non-physical conflict material), the more the sum total of conflict actors multiplied.

This produced a new essential dimension in the evolution of both the conflict material and the conflict perceptions, which carried two implications for the conflict management effort:

Firstly, the regional issue increasingly showed itself resolvable only by an approach integrating and balancing the political and economic interests (all the more so as the regions are very different in their economic potentialities);

Secondly, the regional issue linked the resource division conflict with the conflict over the desirable political system and ideology. Physical and non-physical conflict material became a single object of perception. And this link-up needed to be addressed in order to put an end to the war.

As described in this chapter, the conflict material, the perceptions and actors, and consequently the conflict itself had assumed society-wide proportions. They had, so to say, "nationalized".

To take due note of this seems to be crucial for further external efforts of conflict management by international and regional organizations. While these encountered practically two rival groups at the onset of the conflict, they were, in 1996, faced with roughly the following line-up of Tajik actors who had intervened in the conflict and needed to be taken into account:

- first, the major war-making actors: the government and UTO;

- second, a "compromise faction" and the "irreconcilables" (the latter found in the government, the UTO, among the self-acting field commanders and in the mafia structures);

- third, an internal opposition and an external one (namely UTO as the exile wing of the opposition);

- fourth, self-acting field commanders, and

- fifth, the mafia structures.

It is important to notice that all these factions and groups supported their armed forces or were in more or less close contacts with such forces.


Sarcastically one might ask whether we had to do with a "miraculous" multiplication of conflict actors in consequence of conflict-settling efforts. The evolution of the conflict material and actors as described in the foregoing chapter indicated that the conflict which external aides were called on to address and help settle had become much more intense. The complexity of the conflict material as well as the number of actors and of sub-conflict between these had grown. The following "conflict mix" was characteristic of that stage:

- fierce struggles for political and economic power positions. These struggles are likely to put the entire society into a state of uncertainty, since their outcome is bound to affect the life perspectives of a majority of its members;

- increasing clashes over access to resources;

- additional regional fragmentation through such clashes;

- an amalgamation of physical and non-physical conflict material into a single object of perception with a highly explosive potential, which greatly complicated every effort to disentangle the elements of the conflict material for partial settlement, and

- emergence of a type of conflict actor 'immunized' against instruments for a civilized

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conflict management, who can hardly be influenced from outside but is amenable to the political logic prevailing in society.

But the actual driving force behind the rapidly expanding conflict throughout society was, from a given moment, the resource division dispute, which immensely mobilized all the regional groups politically and militarily.

At the same time it was evident that the two major warring actors in the inter-Tajik war were caught in a difficult situation. This situation was so clear that Gerd D. Merrem, after a few weeks of presence and mediation in the country, characterized the standing of both actors as one of political minorities: "Supposing the two blocs stood at a fair election, they would... not even gain ten per cent of the vote. Neither President Rakhmonov nor the opposition embrace a national idea which the population could identify with" 7 .

In consequence, international aides involved in conflict management efforts encountered a gap between the high degree of nationalisation which the conflict had by then reached in society, and the low level of support from within society for those conflict actors, with whom and by whom the conflict was to be settled.

This was a crossroads situation with an obvious need for conceptual decisions: should international assistance on the Tajik conflict continue to be for the two belligerent actors as the central or sole addresses, keeping them in the focus of national as well as international management efforts! Or should an attempt be made to bridge the gap described above by making arrangements for such substantive approaches and a spectrum of participants as would open up ways towards a balanced reconciliation of interests (consensus) between the regional elites?

Behind these, there were further-reaching conceptual questions, chiefly about the interrelationship between support for a de-escalation of war-like fighting and substantive work on the causes for the conflict, and about enforcing the international principle of non-use of force. Which result could or should international efforts actually achieve: de-escalation between the two belligerent parties to the conflict or substantive advances on its causes? And was an "or" permissible at all? Could de-escalation and substantive work on the causes for the conflict be separate conceptual approaches, or were they not interdependent?

The question was then whether the continued focussing of attention by international organizations such as the UN, the OSCE, the World Bank and the IMF on the two belligerents as the central points of reference for conflict-settling efforts would not amount to a 'reward' for those who back in 1992 preferred the forcible assertion of their particularist interests to a reconciliation of each other's interests and thus triggered off the war? Would it not be more conducive to a settlement of the Tajik conflict and to the observance of the no-use of force principle if the two "violators" were not rewarded with gains of power, but were this time, 1996/97, made to accept what they refused in 1992? Would it be possible for international organizations equipped with a great deal of clout "to convince the parties to the conflict that violent enforcement of interests is more costly than compromise"? 8 And would compromise not help them with gaining a fundamental maxim for the non-forcible control of a multi-regional and multi- ethnic state, especially under conditions of social transformation which are objectively difficult enough?

In this context, the experience available from international work on the Tajik conflict is certainly relevant beyond the Tajik scope insofar as acceptance of the non-use of force is clearly of key importance in stabilizing the overall social conditions/or transformation in post-socialist countries generally. It is in these countries, in particular, where it is vital to stem the recourse to violence and to exert influence in order that relevant forces in society agree on peaceful, reformatory ways of disputing the desired type of political system and its future course.

In Tajikistan, however, the crossroads situation described did not just pose conceptual challenges to the international organizations concerned. More importantly, it turned out the

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Tajik actors with whom a change of direction could have been initiated. These persons presented ideas and proposals to the missions of the UN and the OSCE as well as to embassies, suggesting what they thought should be the direction of a new course.

As of 1996, these domestic dissenters pointed out that neither clan oligarchy nor Islamist orientation were delivering what they expected of representative democracy. An important segment, the Leninabad dissenters, came forward with a concept of their own, proposing that a symbiosis of inter-Tajik talks and supplementary efforts be set on foot to address the Tajik conflict as one of concern to the entire Tajik society.

The rise of internal dissent carried another good message, which could have helped to develop forms of representative democracy: this group had the potential for a middle- of-the-road factor in Tajikistan, which was actually lacking. Action encouraging this potential would have been important to break up the entrenched postures of political forces at opposite poles, which were produced by the civil war and have become a hall- mark of Tajikistan's political landscape.

The coincidence of signs of a possible accord between the major warring actors with pronouncements of internal dissenters indicated that conditions were maturing for ending the war between the government and UTO, hut not for settling the conflict as a societal conflict.

This was a critical point for external crisis management efforts, because working for a settlement of the society-wide conflict on a society-wide footing would have required efforts along broader lines than for the conflict between "merely" two segments of society which waged war against each other.

Given the conflict material constellation described above, what substantive criteria could be the measuring rod for a result achieved by conflict management efforts of the society-wide conflict on a society-wide footing?

The first criterion for whether a result is good enough to end a societal conflict through a settlement which is society-wide and takes account of all substantive factors. This criterion must be applied to the efforts of all sides, internal and external. Looking back at the Tajik conflict with the relevant experience now available, it is clear that it would have been absolutely necessary to tackle the national power conflict in its organic relationship with the transformation of the societal systems, especially the political one, along the lines of representative democracy. In the case of Tajikistan, the substantive criterion is whether the result is suited to engender such forms of representative democracy as will faciliate removing the described basic defect of the political system. For only if and when the relationship between the central authority and the regions is ordered on a basis of democracy and the rule of law will there be openings for repairing that persisting basic defect and for preventing a new major conflict coming out of it.

The second criterion is whether conflict management efforts can encourage or mobilize a line-up of internal political actors who are capable of establishing representative democracy and of mustering the greater part of the efforts internally and on their own, so that the role of external third parties could be reduced to an indispensable minimum of political assistance and physical presence on the ground. In the case of Tajikistan, the major criterion in this sense is how much a settlement is suited substantively and organizationally to produce and promote a consensus among the decisive segments of society (regional elites, minorities, political parties) on matters of fundamental strategy, at least in respect of de-escalating the military conflict and subsequent peace-building. This should include an overarching mutual undertaking to settle differences about the character of the political system and matters of ideology peacefully, without using force against one another. An undertaking of this kind would surely be verifiable by international and regional actors.

Making this suggestion leads us on to the question whether the parties to a given conflict have the necessary status and qualification for such a move. (Are they capable of agreeing to society-wide solutions, or are they just willing to make partial moves because of their particularist motivation? To what extent are they agreed on the political essence of prospective compromises and on the directions of follow-on steps? How much are they sufficiently

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representative of society so that their agreements will be accepted by a majority of the people, or will they again resort to force to impose these agreements? Are they capable of consensus?)

The third criterion, therefore, consists in the status of the conflict actors and partners to mediation and their qualification to settle the conflict in question or, at least, to open roads to a settlement. Not every conflict actor who has "bombed" its way to attracting the attention of international organizations and, therewith, to international recognition and even 'negotiating exclusiveness' is the sole right partner for conflict-settling efforts in a real sense. This is especially true where negotiating efforts are concerned with conflict material with society-wide implications. In such cases it is of critical importance to involve those political actors through whom a settlement will meet with acceptance in society and thus become more sustainable. Admittedly, this can extend the composition of the national group(s) at the negotiating table -something which may probably be uncomfortable to the direct military opponent(s) and also to the external mediator. But such an extension will be absolutely necessary if a compromise is to hold. The argument that international organizations in most cases can simply not choose their counterparts is certainly correct because these are the sides in the shooting war which have to be pacified. However, in the perspective of a really constructive conflict-settling effort it may be decisive to distinguish which of the counterparts is important for a de- escalation of armed fighting and which is better qualified for a settlement addressing the actual substance of the conflict. Only in an ideal case will these two categories of parties to the talks coincide.

The fourth criterion is whether the result of conflict-management efforts will put an end to the shooting war and, if a substantive settlement has not been reached fully or only partially, whether it can shift the battle to a peaceful, political ground. Even a limited result like this can be a major success. But seeing it in this positive light should not obstruct a realistic look at its real capacity to weather the political stresses and strains that are likely to come up in a transitional period.

In this context I wish to recall that Olivier Roy back in 1993 warned against the OSCE opting for an approach that would reduce the problem in Tajikistan to an issue between two parties. But exactly this approach was chosen as international acceptance was granted exclusively to these two parties. This bipolar formula, which was also underlying the inter-Tajik talks, was even maintained when, by mid-1996 at the latest, internal Tajik developments had outgrown it as political prerequisites for a broadly- based approach were existing and internal Tajik political forces favouring such an approach were on hand.

In actual fact, external crisis management efforts had become wedged in an aim-means conflict.

The need for a broader social footing for the inter-Tajik settlement process was clearly recognized at the UN and was raised by the German representative to the UN, Ambassador Tono Eitel, in the Security Council in June 1996, where he warned against the danger of an "Afghanization" of the conflict and said both parties were bearing heavy responsibility for it. He criticized that other Tajik regional and political groups were being denied a say in the matter and emphasized that "a viable political compromise cannot consist in power-sharing only between parties to the conflict, and must aim at establishing democratic decision-making processes" 9 .

What he urged was recognized in the OSCE mission, too. Both missions, of the UN and of the OSCE, had drawn up and agreed on steps in the above direction.

But the UN and the OSCE themselves were in an inconsistent situation. On the one hand, the UN was conducting talks which tied down the active belligerents to an international diplomatic process keeping them under pressure from the Security Council - undoubtedly an important factor for an eventual settlement. But on the other hand, the warring Tajik sides were well aware of their international monopoly position vis-a-vis the UN in the role of external conflict manager. The clan oligarchy, in particular, had discovered the inter-Tajik talks as a kind of "counter-pressure potential" they could apply to push on with their plan of monopolizing power

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within the country. This exactly was the source of their self-confidence and strength in refusing any attempt by a second of third international organization to have at least some discussion of ideas about a broader internal basis for conflict management (with formulas like "national reconciliation" or "consensus among elites").

The aforementioned instrumentalities being solidly emplaced and dovetailed together, there was extremely little room left for an extra diplomatic track aiming at a "consensus among the elites". Any move towards installing a supplementary device of this kind had to be made in a cautious way so that the singularly established UN approach was not obstructed or made redundant, since this would have played into the hands of the "irreconcilables".

At a political crossroads in those days of 1996, the UN and the OSCE as the two leading political organizations had inadvertently ended up in a mutual self-blockade because of their own aim-means discrepancy. Consequently, they could not apply the "counter- pressure potential" of their own, which consisted in well-considered and concerted action to broaden the basis for conflict settlement efforts in terms of consensus among the regional elites and thus to hit the two war-making parties at their Achilles heels: their internal isolation.

Hence, all efforts concerning the Tajik conflict have so far resulted in a compromise of shared power between the two major actors in the civil war - the government and UTO - for a limited period of 12 to 18 months. The UN itself makes no secret of the deficits of that accord. It remains an open question whether international involvement has succeeded in bringing the forces having competency in regard to the key problems of their society nearer to a consensus, at least on the problem of peace. As far as this issue is concerned, the UN Secretary-General himself seems to have his doubts, for he stated in his observations on the results of the inter-Tajik talks that "strong forces in Tajikistan are sceptical about the peace process. Some are concerned about the implications for them of the transformation of the political life that it is to bring about. Others fear that the process might stop short of such a transformation and result in no more than a redivision of power between the contracting parties, to the detriment of others" 10 . As a conclusion from this assessment, his report then urges the government of Tajikistan and UTO "to bring all segments of society into the process of reconciliation" 11 .

Considering, however, that it were these contracting parties which successfully opposed admitting a third side, i.e. representatives of the "internal dissenters", as a self-willed party to the inter-Tajik talks, the call by the UN Secretary-General appears to have implicitly confirmed that confidence-building between the relevant groups of Tajik society, pursued in the context of international efforts, did not come about. With that circumscription of its position, the UN at the end of its involvement in the inter-Tajik talks reassigned the task of confidence-building exactly to those two minority segments of Tajik society which previously proved uncapable of agreeing a consensus to this end.

This, at the latest, is the moment where the difficult question about the limits to conflict management under the complicating conditions of transformation of social system comes up.


The contribution which international organizations operating in Tajikistan have made to a settlement of the conflict has furnished important perceptions and insights concerning the specifics to which external efforts should in future pay due attention when dealing with societal conflicts in analogous or similar conditions of system transformation.

A first important perception is that neither the substantive concepts nor the instrumentalities of conflict management in Tajikistan were good enough to address the evolutionary intensity and society-wide scope the Tajik conflict was assuming during its course. Internal dynamics and external involvement have been like pyramids placed inversely to each other. While the conflict emanated from a political confrontation between two camps at the top and then widened "downwards" at a fast pace to cover more and more segments of society, the conflict management effort with practically one ("singular") instrument, the UN-led inter-Tajik talks,

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developed the opposite way. From the initial view that settling the conflict required a broadly-based approach across society, the practical approach narrowed and became focussed on the two parties who were waging war against each other. The scope which the evolving conflict assumed across society altered not only the situation but also the demands on the content of solutions and on the partners needed for these. In 1996/97, both the demands and the partners were others than in 1992/93, at the beginning of the conflict.

The civil war was primarily perceived and addressed as a war between two actors, and less as a product of conflict in society. What I have seen as a shortcoming of previous internal efforts and external assistance: that the finally signed accords did not provide openings for a solution to the key issue of the conflict by laying foundations for repairing the innate defect of the political system - the incongruity between the received centralized structures of the Soviet type of state power and the Tajik regional identities - do I now see mirrored in the result of all subsequent management efforts. Leaving substantial parts of the Tajik regional elites outside the power sharing deal between the government and the UTO means to tolerate that the provocation of these elites as originally started by the clan oligarchy is being continued, but, this time enlarged by UTO. It would have been the task of external conflict management to widen the "power sharing deal" between the government and the UTO to a "power sharing deal" between all regional elites. But, since none of the external conflict managers was ready to shoulder such a "diplomatic burden", this task remains unfulfilled. As a result, external endeavours have left the Tajiks without "substantive terms of reference" for a balance between their regional elites. In view of the prevailing conflict perception patterns, "peace per se", if ever it comes and if it is to be something more than "no shooting", is hardly sufficient to achieve such a balance.

My second point is that two things seem to have accounted for the external efforts not keeping pace with the immensely intensive evolution and widening scope of the conflict.

Firstly, a direct cause-effect relationship between the intensifying evolution and the widening scope of the conflict on the one hand, and the system transformation with the chosen approaches in terms of politics and economics on the other. The course of the inter-Tajik conflict has shown that system transformation and a society's capability of handling a conflict situation in a civilized manner influence each other. The militant, confrontationist approach, which won through in the dispute over changing Tajikistan's political system after the breakdown of the USSR, has proved obstructive to transformation in many ways. It generated a national catastrophe, worsened the environment for transformation, and wasted a great deal of the energy of the originally democratic, reformatory forces. External conflict management efforts could therefore not avert a constellation in which such internal actors finally gained the upper hand as were least equipped to lead the country in the process of transformation to democracy and the rule of law: the clan oligarchy and an Islamist wing.

System transformation in combination with that militant, confrontationist line of politics has given rise to a mix of conflict material which seems largely to resist external management and to allow of no positive, comprehensive settlement even if the approach is limited to a few elements, because society at large, conflict-stricken as it has been, is losing its capability for self-regulation and constructive behaviour in conflict.

Secondly, external management efforts could not keep pace with the "nationalisation" of the conflict because they did not address it, neither by an adequate concept nor by the instruments applied, as a conflict in society as a whole. Even the high level of professionalism which UN, OSCE and other international personnel displayed in the execution of their mandate could not compensate for that deficiency. The wide scope of the conflict would have required modifications in the external effort in respect of its substance and instruments. As far as instruments are concerned, there would have been the need for a dual approach of the UN and the OSCE. The substance of such an approach should have been aimed at closing the aim-means gap and establishing a line parallel to the negotiations of the UN with both war-waging actors, with

стр. 73

a view to consensus-building between all regional elites. With this objective aim in mind, "OSCE first" should have been the consciously chosen principle. It would have been a good supplement to the functions and role of the UN on the ground, anything but an "avoidable duplication of effort".

A third perception: the mix of conflict material which has come to light in the inter- Tajik conflict, and international organisations are having great difficulties in keeping path with, is no Tajik speciality. To a greater or lesser extent, it is in existence in nearly all transformation societies in the CIS space. I suggest, therefore, that the evident interaction between system transformation, the roads towards it, conflict settlement, and crisis management is no exclusively Tajik phenomenon either.

This is why I feel we would be well-advised to ask ourselves whether system transformation does not essentially alter the premises for and demands on conflict management both from within the countries concerned and from without, in that vast territory, which is of paramount geostrategic importance for Europe. Considering that in an environment of system transformation even minor conflict material in society tends to grow rapidly, assuming a society-wide dimension and causing confrontational line- ups all over, the obvious consequence is a worsening situation not only for conflict management but for a sustained progress of transformation as well.

Faced as we are with a complexity of, and cause-effect interrelationships between, transformation processes, conflict material, conflict actors, conflict causes and societal environments which external management efforts will encounter in states like Tajikistan - may we suspect that external involvement might in future fail to achieve even its most elementary objective -extinguishing the "fire" - if and when this objective is, in substance, pursued in isolation from the processes of transformation?

Postulating that conflicts in conditions of transformation need to be addressed primarily as societal conflicts, we will also be confronted with the question whether the expected performance of external involvement and what it has so far been able to perform still tally with one another in terms of substance, concept and instrumentality, or whether the complicating environment of system transformation has already brought external involvement in conflict management to the limits of what it can still do or is no longer able to do.

In conclusion, I wish to present for discussion a few initial recommendations for the adjustment of policy on intra-societal conflicts in the environment of system transformation:

To ensure that external assistance in handling a societal conflict will retain a civilizing capacity in view of the specific and complex conditions of system transformation, there will be need for adjustment concerning the substance and instruments of work by international and regional organizations, and with regard to the pertinent setting inasmuch as the West can influence it. It must he the strategic aim of both of them to strengthen the internal potential in the regions concerned for settling a conflict by themselves.

Seen from the angle of experience gained from involvement in the Tajik conflict, it seems clear that external management efforts must be aimed at substantive results which will facilitate creating internal prerequisites for a subsequent civilized settlement of the conflict in question. The first necessity in this regard is a set of internal societal correctives which are strong enough to pre-empt from within any use of force by some segments of society. What external assistance, in turn, will be required to do is to work towards results that will not allow violent minorities become dominant in society. Thus, the challenge for external assistance in future consists in pursuing two aims simultaneously: an immediate one, which is to pacify the fighting sides in an acute civil war situation; and one that is only feasible in a longer perspective, namely to help create internal political correctives and to this end to cooperate purposefully with political forces which have a democratic capability. This work has already to be started before conflicts flare up and it has to involve both governments, international and regional organisations, including NGOs.

Existing international and regional organizations do have the capacities to pursue such a

стр. 74

dual-track course, but these will need good coordination when being employed. Whether and how this can be ensured depends largely on the policy framework within which external conflict management and prevention efforts operate.

It is unrealistic to think that conflicts in transforming societies could be prevented altogether, firstly because this is per se an absolute impossibility, and secondly, because the ongoing transformation itself places the societies concerned in a potentially permanent state of conflict. We ought to free ourselves from the illusion that system transformation can be carried through in very short spaces of time. Nor are there "comfortable" ways for it. Given that system transformation takes a long time and is fraught with conflict, it seems we have to reflect on how itfs course and the forms of societal conflict during its course can be influenced.

There is a choice of ways here: The way of political and economic 'clearance' or 'shock therapy', which, as practiced chiefly in the CIS area has indicated, should be kept as short as possible since it exhausts the capacity of societies and tends to cause serious social frictions and clashes which can plunge people, nations and states into catastrophe and may involve high costs for the West; and another way, which conceives of and practises system transformation as an evolutionary, reformatory challenge and seeks to keep the transformation essentially peaceful.

The Tajik "experiment" is an example of the first way, which occurred similarly in Chechnia, Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh and other CIS states and regions. This way has turned out to be unsuitable. Even where it did not lead to civil war and has so far been peaceful, with predominantly peaceful means applied, as in Russia or Central Asian states, neither the results produced nor the current political and economic situation can be regarded as stabilized and irreversible. On the contrary, the situation there remains highly volatile.

Hence, there is reason to think earnestly about the second variant. In order to keep transformation processes and their immanent conflict potential within evolutionary, peaceful channels, external assistance should pursue its aim in a longer perspective and develop a preemptive approach of defusing conflict potentials and blocking the way to violent outbursts. To agree on appropriate external priorities of policy and courses of action has become a challenge now.


1 These ideas are based on the work of the author as a diplomatic mission member of the OSCEMission to Tajikistan (Febr. 1996 - Aug. 1997) and on a study for the Scientific Services Department of the German Bundestag, entitled "Synergetische Bestandsaufnahme von Konfliktsregelungs- und Krisenmanagement-instrumenten t'iihrender intemationaler Organisationen im OSZE-Raum am Beispiel des Tadschikistan-Konflikts", 1998.

2 UN Security Council, S/1997/686, 4 Sept. 1997, p. 5, para. 18.

3 In its programme, the IRP defines Islam as "the law and guide on all policy questions" and "recognizes no other law, outside the sharia". Programme of the Islamic Rebirth Party, in: Bushkov, V.I., Mikulski, V.D., Tadzhikskaya revolutsia i grazhdanskaya voina (1989-1994), Z1MO, Rossiskaya Akademia Nauk, Moscow 1995, p. 188.

4 Olivier Roy, Report on Tajikistan, CSCE Forum for Security and Cooperation, Vienna 1993, F089EW5, p. 6.

5 Translated from: Trautner, Bernhard J., Konstruktive Konfliktbearbeitung im Vorderen und Mittleren Orient, Heidelberger Studien zur Internationalen Politik, Band 2, LIT Verlag, Munster, 1997, p. 21.

6 Translated from: Kayumov, Nuriddin, Puti vykhoda iz krizisa, in: Soldat Rossii, Dushanbe, No. 196, 1997, p. 5.

7 Translated from: Neue Zurcher Zeitung, 7/8 Dec. 1996.

8 Peters I., Normen- und Institutionsbildung der KSZE im Widerstreit der politischen Interessen. Die Durch-setzung des Gewaltverzichtsgebots als Prufstein der KSZE, in: Bernard v. Plate, Europa auf dem Wege zur kollektiven Sicherheit? Konzeptionelle und organisatorische Entwicklung der sicherheitspolitischen Institutionen Europas, Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden, 1994, p. 157.

9 Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations, Security Council, "The Situation in Tajikistan", Statement by Ambassador Tono Eitel, Permanent Representative of Germany to the Unined Nations, New York, 14 June 1966, p. 1.

10 Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation in Tajikistan, S/1997/686, 4 Sept. 1997, chapter VI, para-39, p. Ю.


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