Kyrgyzstan is unlikely to experience internal conflict in the immediate future. The current situation is mostly stable; however internal tensions still exist and could be exacerbated by periods of economic or political insecurity and strife.
Kyrgyzstan has existing and historic ethnic tensions. This is mostly between the Uzbek minority (14.7% pop) and ethnic Kyrgyz majority (71% pop) . These tensions over spilled in 2010 killing at least 200 – 2000 people, mostly in the Osh and Jalalabad regions. These regions border Uzbekistan and are home to a large proportion of the Uzbek citizens of Kyrgyzstan. The resentment and bitterness remains between the two ethnic groups, particularly as the Uzbeks are under-represented throughout the government.
This creates greater animosity towards the government and the Kyrgyz population and it could make the Uzbek population increasingly susceptible to recruitment from extremist groups (see terror groups).
Currently the situation is stable, although occasional disputes still occur they are usually localised and small in scale. Despite this there is still a possibility for violence to reoccur. This is most likely to happen at a time of political strife, similar to 2010 when the power vacuum caused by political friction resulting in local enmities escalating to heavy fighting.
Kyrgyzstan is becoming increasing politically stable. The OSCE reports have shown that since 2010 elections have become more open with far fewer voting irregularities, giving particularly praise to the conduct of the 2015 elections.
However, in times of strife Kyrgyzstan politics often becomes fragmented and divisive, between 2010 and 2015 there has been six prime ministers. Despite this, the political situation is unlikely to cause internal conflict without any substantial change.
This being said Kyrgyzstan politics can become combative making political consensus hard to come by, as it can be too reliant on big personalities and local ‘strongmen’.
Economic factors have and will continue to contribute to internal security issues in Kyrgyzstan. Corruption is a key potential trigger of unrest and is a region wide problem, this is clearly seen by the protests surrounding multinationals in the area, often the Kumtor gold mine.
These operations have been accused by Kyrgyz politicians of taking most the profit and not providing Kyrgyzstan with a fair share, although the accuracy of these accusations are far from certain. The protests are usually localised and consist of blockading roads, and on rare occasions the kidnapping of government officials.
Although the dispute is localised the repercussions of these protests affect parliament and have already contributed to one prime ministers resignation. The reoccurring nature of these protests mean that any company working in the country should be aware of potential unrest, despite the fact that many of the original protests are caused by local rivalries and politicians rather than the actions of the companies themselves.
Negative economic results will always be a potential cause of unrest. Remittance payments are one of the largest incomes in the Kyrgyzs economy, as so many Kyrgyz citizens have moved abroad to gain employment. However due to the economic situation in Kyrgyzstan and the current economic decline of Russia, the main source of remittance, Kyrgyzstan has seen the value of payments decline as work becomes more scarce and wages decrease. This then causes a secondary affect, as citizens return due to lack of jobs abroad it increases the strain on the civil infrastructure and government.
The likelihood of religion causing internal conflict is low. However, some extreme Islamist groups have been reported to operate in Kyrgyzstan. As a result, there is a risk of terrorism, although the current activity is mostly focused on recruitment or the narcotics trade in the south.
Kyrgyzstan’s population is predominately Muslims, making up over 75% of the population. The second largest group is orthodox Christians at around 20%.
The Kyrgyz government allows for religious freedom but cracks down on groups it deems to extreme. In the past the Kyrgyz authorities have been accused of heavy handedness when responding to perceived extremist threats. The main criticism is the governments failure to recognise traditional or peaceful Islam from extremists. It is also worth noting that the government response has been based around arrests and banning of certain groups rather than violence.
At present social divisions are largely ethnic as both Uzbeks and Kyrgyz are predominantly Sunni Muslims making religious sectarian violence highly unlikely. While the orthodox community is not at odds with the Muslim majority, making internal religious conflict unlikely. Although an increase in extremist Islamic terrorism could occur and become a significant destabilising factor.