The conflict in South Ossetia could have been avoided
(19/11-2008) -Even though we have had differences with South-Ossetia for a long time, we had reached a stage were our peoples did not have much differences any more.
We interacted; we traded and crossed the borders back and forth. However, the differences were never solved on a political level, and for the authorities, only war was the solution, the Ombudsman said at yesterdays seminar held by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, where some 40 participants were present discussing the situation in Georgia after the war. The Ombudsman also pointed to the negative development in Georgia after the Rose revolution in 2003, shattering many of the hopes for a society respecting democracy and human rights. Ombudsman Subari and the Georgian human rights defender Ucha Nanuashvili particularly pointed to the government control over the media, the lack of an independent judiciary and that NGOs no longer is allowed to operate freely in the society.
Anna Dolidze, former head of prominent Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association asked the question: -Have we, Georgians and its authorities, learnt anything from the mistakes made in the past? Dolidze made the comparison with the experiences in Iran, where Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi in her book writes that after the revolution in Iran, the dispossessed became the dispossessor. As long as we are not able to have a public debate neither of the reasons nor the impact of the war we waged, we will not be enabled to avoid similar conflicts or have a positive development in the future. If President Saakashvili loses power, a new leadership will make the same mistakes because we have not learnt the lessons from our past. Only a small group of 5 – 10 people govern Georgia now, and they do not listen to other views than their own. We need to again develop an active grass root movement in Georgia, who can act as the checks and balances of the authorities, Dolidze said at the seminar.
Professor Pavel Baev of PRIO pointed to the astonishing level of attention the conflict had had, and was of the opinion that the reason for this was that it had features of a war between great powers – the West and Russia. The conflict was both fully predictable because of all the obvious warnings and unexpected, since the attack came as a surprise. Thus, the conflict could also have been prevented, but nobody acted to prevent it. Despite this, the conflict had very little regional resonance, its effect being very local and not spreading to the rest of the region. As for Russia, Baev was concerned by the fact that the war had been won and recognised the independence of South Ossetia too easily, at too little political cost. As for the future relations to Russia, Baev pointed to the possibility of Russia as a more humble state after the financial crisis.