Obituary: Jumabek Ibraimov

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The Independent Culture
JUMABEK IBRAIMOV'S rule as Kyrgyzstan's prime minister was brief. Already ailing when appointed to the post by President Askar Akaev on 25 December last year, Ibraimov had to withdraw from day-to-day work two months later for an operation in Moscow for stomach cancer. He tried to return to work in late March - when government officials said he was healed - but soon succumbed.

In Kyrgyzstan, a small mountainous republic of what used to be the Soviet Union's empire in Central Asia, bounded by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China, politics most resembles a revolving door, with a small elite constantly reshuffled at the president's whim.

Before becoming prime minister, Ibraimov had held a number of senior posts. He was appointed mayor of the capital, Bishkek, in January 1993, and from January 1995 he was State Secretary to President Akaev, effectively his chief of staff. In March 1996 he was named an adviser on economics to the president and his Plenipotentiary Representative to the People's Assembly, the upper house of parliament.

Failing health caused Ibraimov to take a year off from public life, but he returned in December 1997 as Chairman of the State Property Fund, a job that carried the rank of minister. As growing incompetence and corruption enveloped the government at the end of last year, Akaev sacked the whole team, bringing in Ibraimov to clean up. Akaev compared his new prime minister to the Russian incumbent, Yevgeny Primakov, who was a personal friend of Ibraimov.

As prime minister, Ibraimov tried to bring in new mechanisms for preventing corruption and promoted further privatisation to boost the sagging economy which had been hard hit by last August's financial crash in Russia. But Ibraimov was not in office long enough to have much of an impact.

Born into a peasant family in Kemin district of Kyrgyzstan's northern Chui Region, Ibraimov was trained as an engineer. In 1960, after completing secondary school, he started work as an apprentice locksmith in a factory in the capital, then called Frunze. In 1963 he entered Frunze Polytechnic Institute, though his studies were interrupted for army service in the airborne troops, based near the Russian town of Tula.

From August 1971 he took further postgraduate studies, then worked as a lecturer in the machine- building faculty of Frunze Polytechnic Institute. In 1976 he took a special course at the Machine-Tool Construction Institute in Moscow. He worked in a Frunze agricultural machine factory before moving to a factory in Rybachy in north-eastern Kyrgyzstan in January 1977 of which he later became director.

In 1985 he transferred to Communist Party work. That December he was appointed as First Secretary of the party in Rybachy. In January 1988 he moved into the senior ranks of the Kyrgyzstan party when he became First Deputy Head of the Department of Organisational Party Activity of the Central Committee. In March 1991 he became Second Secretary of the party in Chui region.

In November 1991, just when the Soviet Union was on the brink of disintegration, Ibraimov was appointed deputy chairman of the Security and Defence Committee of the USSR Supreme Soviet in Moscow.

Like many Communist officials he turned to business in the post- Soviet era, becoming director of the Janash joint-stock company in 1992. He was later chairman of the board of the Kyrgyz national airline. However, he remained in politics, being twice elected to parliament.

Jumabek Ibraimovich Ibraimov, politician: born Jany-Alysh, Soviet Union 1 January 1944; married (four children); died Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan 4 April 1999.