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Problems of Shida Kartli discussed in Tbilisi

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, January 28
The Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development held a conference entitled 'Shida Kartli After the August 2008 War: Challenges and Solutions' on January 27. It began with the Institute presenting a report on the present situation in the Shida Kartli region and discussed the important and most difficult problems of the region with invited NGO representatives, journalists and Government members. The event was held with the financial support of the Think Tank Fund of the Open Society Institute- Budapest.

“Our aim is to study the situation in the Shida Kartli region and what kinds of problems it faces after the August 2008 events and give full information on these to international organisations, the Georgian Government and those actors able to assist the people who need help or somehow able to play a significant role in resolving these problems. We can identify the problems and suggest programmes or initiatives to those organisations or Governmental institutions able to take effective steps to assist the region,” Gia Nodia, head of the Institute, stated.

The Georgian region of Shida Kartli was the centre of military operations during the Russian-Georgian war of August 2008, which therefore had a major impact on the region. As for about two months after the war a large part of the region constituted a buffer zone, controlled by Russian troops, many of its inhabitants fled. Most of these have since returned to their villages but the security situation is still precarious and frequent abductions represent a major challenge and add to the general sense of insecurity. The economic and social situation has deteriorated considerably in the region as local residents have had to cope with the loss of homes, transport, livestock and agricultural equipment. There also appears to be general confusion and discontent among the locals regarding the extent of Government aid, while IDPs from South Ossetia, who live in special settlements built in Shida Kartli, face a number of significant problems, including lack of access to information, electricity and gas problems, unemployment and other everyday problems, says the report.

Asked by The Messenger what the main problem of the region was and how it might be resolved, Erekle Urushadze from the Institute cited security issues. "the main problem is that the people live in fear, as Ossetians and Russian soldiers frequently oppress locals in the villages controlled by the Georgian side and the Georgian police and military try to refrain from shooting so as not to make the situation worse and provoke the Ossetians and Russians. One thing which could be done in this direction is for the Government, international organisations and NGOs to create some kind of security mechanism,” Urushadze suggested.

The Institute's monitors in the region said that the Government is doing nothing useful to either address security problems or help with everyday problems. "There are several settlements where the residents have no gas or electricity, as they could not pay their bills. The locals do not know what to do about this, as the Government had promised them that these charges would be paid from the state budget. Now it says it will only pay half and the IDPs will have to pay the other half. The region’s residents are in an information vacuum,” Institute monitor Revaz Nadiradze said.

Residents of the region have no information about their rights, what can they demand from the Government, to whom to appeal in case of problems and so on. During the meeting printing information booklets and disseminating them was suggested, but how this will be done remains to be seen. However the Institute has sent its report to Governmental and foreign institutions and is ready to collaborate with everyone able to play a positive role in helping Shida Kartli.