This Article is From Jul 03, 2010

Otunbayeva is Kyrgyztan's first woman President

Otunbayeva is Kyrgyztan's first woman President
Moscow: Kyrgysztan leader Roza Otunbayeva etched her name in history as she was sworn-in as the conflict-ridden country's President on Saturday, the first-ever woman head of state in Central Asia.

In a landmark referendum, an overwhelming 90.55 per cent voter in Kyrgyzstan backed a new Constitution to transform the country, a parliamentary democracy, and strip the Presidential post of its wide ranging powers.

After publishing the official results of the June 27 referendum, the Kyrgyz Central Election Commission (CEC) on Saturday declared Otunbayeva, 59, as the transitional President of the Central Asian republic till December 31, 2011, when the country would switch to a parliamentary democracy.

After the violent ouster of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev on April 7, Otunbayeva's interim regime had to face the challenge of inter-ethnic violence in southern regions of Osh and Jalalabad last month.

At least 2000 are believed to have died in the anti-Uzbek violence and at one juncture Otunbayeva had appealed to Russia for military intervention to restore law and order in the region where the number of refugees went up to four lakh.

"Today Kyrgyzstan is going through one of the most dramatic periods in its history," Otunbayeva said to a cheering audience in a packed Soviet-era concert hall in the capital Bishkek, in her inaugural speech.

She expressed sorrow at the violence in the southern regions and promised a new political era for a country riddled with instability.

"Unfortunately, we have seen tragic events in the Osh and Jalalabad regions, where dark forces were guilty of causing the blood of many innocent people to be spilt," she said.

Kyrgyz authorities have accused deposed President Bakiyev, now living in exile in Belarus, of being the force behind the violence.

She also pledged that all those rendered homeless by the unrest would receive new housing by the onset of winter and urged the international community to help avoid a "humanitarian catastrophe".

A former foreign minister and ambassador to Britain, Otunbayea has assumed office at a sensitive period in Kyrgyz history and would oversee the transition to a parliamentary democracy.

"We understand well that moral wounds do not heal quickly, the only medicine was dignity and a desire for accord," Otunbayeva said as she urged the people of her country to maintain and preserve communal harmony.

"We are brothers and we are destined to be together forever," Otunbayeva was quoted as saying by Interfax.