Kmara: Wikis

  

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Kmara (Georgian: კმარა) is a civic resistance movement in the republic of Georgia which undermined the government of Eduard Shevardnadze. After international observers condemned his government's conduct of the November 2003 parliamentary elections, Kmara led the protests which precipitated his downfall in what became known as the Rose Revolution.

Contents

Origins

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In 2000, a small student movement was formed at Tbilisi State University to protest against official corruption in national universities. Nearly 2,500 students joined the organization, and the first student government at a state university in the country was elected. Later, similar student governments were elected in other universities across the country. This network of student organizations evolved into Kmara in early 2003.

The prominent Georgian human rights NGO, Liberty Institute, made up of young veteran activists, functioned as the mother organization to Kmara and helped build the latter's organizational capabilities. Kmara increased their organizational capacity and theoretical knowledge of how to use nonviolent action to effect change through contact with the Serbian Otpor movement (Serbian for "resistance"), which played a pivotal role in the downfall of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000.

Western patronage

The Belgrade-based Center for Nonviolent Resistance was also key in training Kmara, and several other Western organizations were involved in supporting the group. According to an article in the scholarly journal Problems of Post-Communism, Kmara was also funded by Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute, European Union, National Endowment for Democracy, International Republican Institute, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, USAID, and the Council of Europe.

Like Otpor, Kmara organized a loose, decentralized network of the regional cells. It intentionally avoided creating a head organization, whose dismantling could have brought the movement to a halt. The training sessions for activists and new recruits were conducted at recreational facilities. The recruits were expected to provide autonomous leadership in their regional cells and organize actions independently. Other dimensions of the training dealt with political marketing, media relations, mobilization and recruiting and debating skills.

Public outreach

The scale of Kmara's actions grew along with its membership. Kmara started with smaller, more manageable local issues. Simple but effective means of protest included graffiti and noisy protest marches, which achieved high visibility. Soon, Kmara activists were making daily appearances on major TV channels and in the major newspapers. As a result, within months Kmara became a broadly recognizable name.

Kmara began organizing civilian groups (mostly of students) as election observers and were vocal about the need for fair elections prior to the November 2003 elections. Their work garnered much attention from Shevardnadze, who complained that the Russian government and George Soros' Open Society Institute had been funding an opposition movement meant to drive Shevardnadze from power.

Rose Revolution

At a press conference on April 21 , leader of the National Democratic Party and spokeswomen for the pro-Shevardnadze bloc For New Georgia, Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia announced how “Russian special services are planning a large-scale, tried-and-tested operation: ‘enough.’”

In June, during his weekly radio broadcast President Shevardnadze threatened any international organizations promoting or supporting “organized chaos” in Georgia: "I can tell them that, from now on, you will no longer be in Georgia. That will then be it. They will no longer be here, just as they are no longer in Ukraine, Russia and some other countries, which told them to leave. That is because they have begun interfering in politics. Politics is not their business." After the accusatory comments towards the Open Society Georgia Foundation, President Shevardnadze began developing a different response to Kmara from mid-June until mid- to late-October. In his weekly radio address on June 16, Shevardnadze said that he saw Kmara graffiti from his limousine that day and noticed that “nobody seemed to be reading it.” This attempt to ignore Kmara persisted as Shevardnadze remained conspicuously quiet regarding their activities over the following months.

After the revolution

Kmara later proved instrumental in the removal of the regime of Aslan Abashidze in the Autonomous Republic of Ajaria. The Open Society Institute also flew Georgian youth leaders and opposition leader Mikheil Saakashvili to Serbia in order to prepare them for what might happen in the upcoming elections and how they could react nonviolently in a way that would produce real change. After the revolution, most of Kmara's leaders left the organization to work for the Liberty Institute.

See also

External links

References

  • Fairbanks, Charles J. "Georgia's Rose Revolution." Journal of Democracy (2004): 110-124.
  • Herd, Graeme P. "Colorful Revolutions and the CIS: "Manufactured" Versus "Managed" Democracy?" Problems of Post-Communism (2005): 3-18.







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