After terrorist attacks, President Tokayev, with the Kazakh people’s decisive support, appoints new Government and announces reforms
Pretoria, 11 January 2022
Q-1. Your Excellency, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed about the latest developments in your country. At the outset, please tell us how it all started.
A-1. Initially, the rallies began in one of the provinces of our country named Mangistau region, whose residents demanded lower retail prices for liquefied gas. In response to this and on behalf of the President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the government promptly took measures to reduce the prices and introduced a moratorium on price increases for socially significant food products, fuel, lubricants and utilities.
However, in several regions and cities of Kazakhstan, demonstrations began to develop into riots and attacks on government bodies. Moreover, in the city of Almaty there were attacks on administrative and military facilities, the seizure of the airport and the retention of foreign passenger and cargo aircraft. This posed a serious threat to the stability of the country and the security of our citizens. In fact, Kazakhstan faced an armed incursion by international terrorist groups trained abroad, who acted in an organized and coordinated manner.
Nevertheless, because of the President’s decisiveness and courage, the bravery of members of our armed forces and law enforcement agencies, the citizenry united around the Head of State to defend Kazakh statehood and thwarted coup attempts to encroach on the country’s integrity.
Q-2. Does this mean that the latest events in Kazakhstan were inspired from the outside with the use of international terrorist groups?
A-2. International terrorism unleashed an open campaign to destabilize the country. We are talking about an attempt to undermine the security and integrity of the state by force inspired from the outside, using trained and organized armed formations.
We had to deal with armed and trained bandits, both local and foreign. As our Honourable President noted, “Their actions showed the presence of a clear plan of attacks on military, administrative and social facilities in most areas, well-coordinated actions, high combat readiness and bestial cruelty.”
In addition to the militants, there were specialists trained in ideological sabotage skillfully using disinformation or fake news to manipulate people’s emotions.
As you can see, the situation required the adoption of urgent measures to neutralize the armed terrorists and normalize the country.
You are well aware that terrorist and extremist forces will never give up their destructive intentions. Therefore, it is impossible to agree with them. Dozens of people died at the hands of terrorists in Almaty and other large cities. They damaged civilian property, and destroyed administrative buildings. In connection with the numerous human casualties, our President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev declared 10 January 2022, a day of nation-wide mourning. We are very thankful to South African authorities and society, as well as representatives of the diplomatic corps in Pretoria, for their sincere condolences and sympathies.
Q-3. What can you tell us about the deployment of foreign peacekeeping forces into the country?
A-3. The situation in my country has deteriorated so much that President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev appealed to the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), of which Kazakhstan is a full-fledged member, for military assistance in the conduct of counter-terrorist operations.
Considering the urgent situation, the Heads of the CSTO member states on 6 January 2022, the Collective Security Council decided to send the Collective Peacekeeping Forces of the Organization to Kazakhstan for a limited period help stabilize and normalize the situation in the country.
The Council made the decision in accordance with Article 4 of the Collective Security Treaty of May 15, 1992. This provides that in the event of an aggression (armed attack threatening security, stability, territorial integrity and sovereignty) against any of the participating States, all the other participating States shall immediately provide that state with the necessary support and assistance, including military at its request.
The law enforcement forces of Kazakhstan are morally and technically capable of providing reliable protection for all citizens of our multi-ethnic and multi-confessional people, as well as for that of foreigners in the country, including representatives of the diplomatic corps and journalists. Protection of foreign investment and the interests of foreign companies operating in Kazakhstan is also a key priority.
Q-4. What are the immediate priorities and how long will the peacekeepers stay in your country?
A-4 Our Head of state outlined the priority work the country must conduct. Yet, we need to successfully complete the anti-terrorist operations successfully and completely restore law and order, so that Kazakhstani citizens can walk calmly in cities and towns. They must be able to work and study, and not fear for their children and loved ones. Overall, the acute phase of the counter-terrorist operations has passed. The situation in all regions is stable now. In this regard, the CSTO peacekeeping forces have successfully completed their main mission in Kazakhstan. On January 13, a phased withdrawal of the CSTO contingent will commence, which will take no more than 10 days.
Q-5. What will change and what will not?
A-5. One of the changes is the appointment of a new Cabinet headed by the new Prime Minister H.E. Mr. Alikhan Smailov on 11 January 2022.
However, even under the new Government, Kazakhstan will remain committed to compliance with international obligations and commitments in the field of human rights. It will continue the course of reforms within the framework of the ‘Listening State’ concept initiated and implemented by H.E. Mr. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The open door policy for foreign direct investments will also remain a core strategy of Kazakhstan.
At the same time, the country’s leadership is preparing a plan of political reforms and specific measures to implement, which, will be announced in the second half of this year. Hence, our leadership will continue to focus on reforms.
Because of such progressive reforms, we have abolished the death penalty in our country as of 2022. I also note that in 2020-2021, we implemented a package of unprecedented democratic reforms. These aim at developing a multi-party system and political competition, and increasing civic engagement. In particular, we have consolidated the institution of parliamentary opposition at the legislative level, as well as introducing a 30 percent quota in party lists for women and youth. For the first time in history, we held elections for rural akims (governors/administrators/heads).
On 11 January 2022, in his Address to Parliament, President Tokayev ordered a radical reorganization of the entire national security system. All its components must work harmoniously with one goal – the maximum protection of our citizens, the constitutional order and sovereignty to counter any threat.
Besides, President Tokayev also ordered the establishment of a Public Social Fund “People of Kazakhstan”, which will deal with real problems in health care, education, and social support. For example, it will assist children with rare diseases. Indeed, for most families, the cost of treatment is simply unaffordable.
We will build Sports facilities for children in cities, districts, townships, villages. We will also assist talented children and cultural development. The fund will help Almaty to recover from the terrible tragedy. The fund will support the families of the killed police officers and service members. These are just some examples.
It will be a fund of all Kazakhstanis – a truly national fund. We are not creating it in the Presidential Administration or the Government. We will establish it under a separate authoritative Supervisory Board. We will appoint an honest, responsible leader as the CEO of the Fund. Furthermore, we will ensure full transparency of its activities, accountability and controllability to the society. We will publish plans, budget, and projects of the Fund on its website
In this interview I familiarized you only with a small part of the concrete practical steps and measures to be implemented to maintain changes and reforms in my country.
Q-6. Are there are points of collaboration between our countries in the fight against terrorism and extremism?
A-6. Kazakhstan and South Africa can join hands to solve this menace as one of the main challenges and threats of our time. In September 2018, on the margins of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, at the initiative of Kazakhstan, this body adopted an international document entitled, “Code of Conduct towards Achieving a World Free of Terrorism.”
This initiative is in tune with H.E. President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa’s recent statement that
“A threat by insurgence should never be seen as localized or just focusing on one country. They co-operate and all of these groupings that come in different names, they co-ordinate their activities and are in constant communication. We therefore need to respond in a co-ordinated manner as the continent and various regions on our continent as far as sharing information, intelligence and working together to withstand and resist, and also, go after them … Through acting the way we are now, we’re making it clear, as a region, we will not tolerate acts of terrorism targeted against our people in any country in the region. The SADC will act as one.”
Therefore, we are making a proposal to the South African Government to accede to the international document that Kazakhstan championed to build a global terrorism-free future. About 90 states of the world have already signed it.
I would also like to emphasize that the appeal of Kazakhstan to the CSTO for help, as a victim of terrorist aggression by radical extremists, mirrors Mozambique’s earlier appeal for collective assistance by the SADC countries in addressing the terrorist attacks in the northern parts of that country.
As our President noted, “Democracy is not permissiveness and, moreover, it is not incitement, including in the information sphere, to unlawful actions.” The tragedy of Almaty illustrated this amply, when disregard of laws, permissiveness, and anarchy led to the violation of constitutional human rights and freedom.
I am confident that South Africa, which plays a leading role in ensuring peace both in South Africa and on the continent as a whole, will be able to effectively deal with such problems that threaten the security of the entire world community.
Your Excellency, thank you very much for this interview and your very timely, relevant and useful comments.