Where One Man is Truly King

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryIn celebration of having been in control of his country for so long, the legislature declared December 2nd as a special holiday. Hundreds of thousands gathered in one of the huge stadiums in the city to celebrate their leader’s one-man rule (what choice did they have? Anyone who disobeyed would have been imprisoned). In perfect synchronized fashion, demonstrators held up placards and did dances in unison in homage to their leader. You may be thinking that I am describing North Korea and their leader Kim Jong-un. In fact, I am talking about the country of Kazakhstan and their long-time leader Nursultan Nazarbayev. Born in Kazakhstan in 1940, he became a member of the Communist Party and then later a leading member in Kazakhstan’s Communist Politburo (the governing legislative body of the time). When the Soviet Union broke up in December of 1991, Nazarbayev declared Kazakhstan’s independence and became the country first and so far only leader. He has been the leader ever since.

True, he has so far not reached the level of the cult of personality that Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il have in North Korea. Nor has Nazarbayev made himself a virtual god like former Turkmenistan’s ruler Sapurmurad Niyazov (who actually had towns, streets, monuments, schools and universities, and even a whole month named after him!). But he has shown himself to have some despotism in him. The nation’s highest university in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, has been named Nazarbayev University. His family literally run the government, and the last election that was held was in 2008 (he won that election of course since all of the ballot boxes were stuffed). But make no mistake, Nazarbayev is a dictator. According to Freedom House, the Kazakstan’s government ranks 122 out of 146 countries in transparency and accountability. In other words, Kazakstan is one of the most corrupt and incompetent governments on earth. It has hundreds of political prisoners. Torture is common, and confessions obtained by torture are considered admissible in Kazakh courts.

Those who protest against this repression are shot and killed. In 2011, scores of protesters in the oil town of Zhanaozan were shot and killed protesting land grabs and financial austerity measures. I believe my readers get the picture—this is a bad country to live in. So what does this have to do with us? Well, America gets some of its oil and other natural resources from Kazakhstan. The Kazakhstan government has agreements with the U.S. government to “fight” terrorism, although one has to wonder whether that is more for fighting Kazakhstan’s people. American corporations have millions invested in Kazakhstan because of that country’s natural resource wealth. But all of this does not justify doing business with a man and his family who rule this country like their private fiefdom. Nazarbayev is a dictator, a tyrant, and a murderer of his own people. He has a cult of personality that rivals many tyrants in history, and no amount of diplomatic acumen Nazarbayev has will change this fact. I keep asking the question why the U.S. government keeps getting cozy with dictators like Nursultan Nazarbayev?

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