IN March I was with a international team of observers from the OECD in Georgia to observe elections to the national parliament in Tbilisi.
The history of Georgia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990’s has been one of tragedy. Two separatist wars left tens of thousands dead and hundreds of thousands of people displaced out of a population of 5 million.
Two regions, Abhazia and South Ossetia, are not under central government control and a third, Adjara was effectively a separate administration.
I was on the election team that was sent to Adjara, which is in the south-west corner of Georgia bordering Turkey and the Black Sea. There was a lot of tension prior to the election and there were fears that the President of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara would not allow the elections to take place.
Special arrangements and security personnel accompanied our team on the bus journey overland to the Adjaran capital of Batumi. We crossed the border at a checkpoint manned by Adjaran troops and paramilitaries loyal to Adjaran President Aslan Abashidze who had distributed weapons in order to confront a possible Georgian Army invasion. The elections were peaceful but last week things came to a head and another civil war loomed.
I am duty-bound not to comment on the political situation in Adjara but I received this e-mail from David Mikeladze, an interpreter from Batumi, who worked for us on the observer mission.
Hi Niall! How are you?
I think you know what’s happened in Batumi. You can’t imagine how happy we are. Abashidze resigned… He became a really dangerous separatist leader after the “Rose Revolution” in Tbilisi. He was doing everything to begin war with the rest of Georgia.
Last Sunday he destroyed bridges connecting with other parts of Georgia. On Monday morning we (students) began mass demonstration against him. He used against peaceful students and children his illegal armed forces (but it was his usual action, every time he used force against people). After this in the evening we gathered in front of the university and a lot of people come with us. I shouted so much that I have lost my voice.
But we won..It was unbelievable. On Wednesday evening the Secretary of Security Council of Russia arrived and took him to Moscow. Our President and government came to Batumi. They founded a lot of very expensive weapons which was bought by him.
A lot of people were put to prison for their political activity–now they are free. His secret forces were controlling everything. Now people are hopeful and we are celebrating the dictator’s resigning.
New elections will be held in June. Will you come again? I’ll be very happy to meet you.
I wish success to you in your work.
Best wishes to you and your family, David!