By Kanat Tumysh, Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the Republic of South Africa
15 December 2022
The world has endured many challenges this year. The conflict in Ukraine, in particular, has impacted the whole planet, including indirectly through economic depressions and worrying geopolitical tensions. Kazakhstan has not been immune from this, as the consequences of the war have affected our economy, while risks of a global recession and spiralling inflation are damaging business confidence in the Central Asian region.
Against this difficult background, Kazakhstan could have looked inward, particularly due to the tragic events that took place in our country in January, when we faced a coup attempt through armed violence. Many were unsure whether Kazakhstan would recover. Despite our assurances and firm commitments to reform, democratisation, and further protection of human rights, some doubted whether this would be achieved. As we approach the end of this tumultuous year, we can say with certainty that Kazakhstan has kept its promises. In addition to demonstrating our resilience and stability, we have transformed our country through significant political and socio-economic initiatives.
We have implemented constitutional reforms following a nationwide referendum in June, which have instilled new democratic values in our governance, including limited presidential powers, a more influential parliament, an independent Constitutional Court, establishment of new political parties, direct elections of mayors, and other important measures.
In November, our country held a presidential election under the new Constitution, which means all future heads of our state, including current President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, will serve a single seven-year term without the right to re-election. The election, which was held fairly and transparently, was an important milestone in the democratic development of our country.
We also learned valuable lessons from the tragic events in January. Many of the participants of those riots received an amnesty. Steps were also taken to prevent human rights mistreatments.
All of our efforts over the past twelve months have contributed to the creation of a Just and Fair Kazakhstan – a prosperous society, and a more vibrant, dynamic and competitive political system.
While transforming our domestic political system, we did not forget about our international obligations. In October, our capital hosted the sixth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, an organisation that we launched 30 years ago to enhance cooperation towards peace, security and stability in Asia. During the same month, Astana held the meeting of Heads of State of Central Asia and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. Symbolically, it took place on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Central Asian countries and the European Union.
A month earlier, we held the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. Pope Francis was among the over 100 delegations from 50 countries, marking the first visit by the Head of the Catholic Church to Kazakhstan since Pope John Paul II in 2001. During the same period, we welcomed the President of China, Xi Jinping, whose state visit to Kazakhstan was the first trip abroad after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The domestic and foreign policy course taken by Kazakhstan has opened the door to enhanced cooperation with South Africa.
As the world looks to navigate the challenges associated with current geopolitical and economic hardships, closer cooperation between Kazakhstan and South Africa is essential. At the same time, Kazakhstan remains committed to developing its relations with all the countries and partners. As President Tokayev said during his inauguration following the recent presidential election, “Kazakhstan will continue to pursue a balanced, constructive foreign policy aimed at protecting national interests. Mutually beneficial cooperation and strategic partnership with neighbouring countries – Russia, China and brotherly countries of Central Asia, with partners in integration alliances – will be a priority. We will make every effort to develop multifaceted cooperation with the United States, the European Union, the states of Asia, the Middle East and Transcaucasia, as well as with all interested countries.”
We are convinced that our multi-vector foreign policy will contribute to the resolution of many global crises and facilitate increased international collaboration.
2023 will be another significant year for Kazakhstan. Parliamentary elections will be held within the first six months. New political parties are already emerging ahead of the election, which will further increase political competition and plurality. For the first time in 18 years independent candidates, too, will be able to stand for the election in single-mandate constituencies.
As we look forward to next year, we are determined to enhance our relations with South Africa. We have built a strong foundation on which to develop our cooperation further. Given our mutual desire for strong ties, I have every reason to believe that we will achieve our goals together.