BISHKEK (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan asked for up to $500 million in aid Thursday to restore two southern cities where hundreds of people are living in the ruins of homes destroyed during the worst violence in the country’s modern history.
About 300 people were killed, and possibly hundreds more, during several days of clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks four weeks ago. In some regions of Osh and Jalalabad, houses and public buildings were burned to the ground.
“We need somewhere between $450 million and $500 million to restore and build housing,” Temir Sariyev, acting minister of finance in the provisional government, told a meeting of diplomats and international agency representatives.
The bloodshed in Kyrgyzstan created a wave of 400,000 refugees, mostly ethnic Uzbeks, about a quarter of whom crossed the nearby border into Uzbekistan. Most have since returned to their homes, where some are living without a roof overhead.
Kyrgyz authorities estimate over 2,500 buildings, including 1,900 private houses, were destroyed in the violence. About 15 percent of all buildings in Osh, the second-largest city in Kyrgyzstan, were destroyed.
The government, led by acting president Roza Otunbayeva, plans to organize a meeting of foreign donors in Bishkek on July 27 and itself will use a third of the $300 million loan extended by Russia last year to rebuild houses in Osh and Jalalabad.
“We will be grateful for any help that is offered,” Zhantoro Satybaldiyev, head of the agency charged with restoring and developing Osh and Jalalabad, told the same meeting Thursday.
Kyrgyzstan’s interim government has said it will support an international inquiry into the violence, which United Nations officials have said began with coordinated attacks before spiraling into ethnic bloodshed.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement that the government had asked an official of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to begin preparations for an independent international commission.
It said it believed such a commission would be chaired by Kimmo Kiljunen, special envoy for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
“Now everyone involved with the process needs to make sure the commission has the expertise, mandate and authority it needs to make its work meaningful,” said Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch.
He said the role of government forces in the violence should also be investigated.
Writing by Robin Paxton; Editing by Maria Golovnina
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