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Silly Dictator Story #14: No Donkeys At The Well

The latest in water infrastructure in Kulob, Tajikistan.
The latest in water infrastructure in Kulob, Tajikistan.
When Tajik President Emomali Rahmon ventures from Dushanbe, it’s always a big deal. The streets are cleaned, the poems and songs of praise are practiced, and now, at least in the city of Kulob, people’s water-toting donkeys will be kept at home.

In preparation for President Rahmon’s upcoming visit to the southern city of Kulob, officials there, anxious to portray a prosperous, functioning municipality, are “asking” the city’s residents to keep their equine helpers away from the city wells. Due to a combination of high consumption and shoddy infrastructure, the city’s 100,000 or so residents have had to rely more and more on the traditional city wells for water during the summer months.

Water can be quite heavy, so many use donkeys -- the prices of which have also risen -- to transport large plastic jugs to and from the wells. RFE/RL’s Tajik Service reports that city officials have canvassed the city street-by-street telling residents to keep their donkeys home while the president surveys the city.

The heavy use of the wells is a sore spot for local officials. Following heavy flooding in 2010, millions of dollars have been earmarked to improve and modernize the area’s water infrastructure. Pictures of residents gathered around rudimentary wells with jug-toting donkeys, however, does not exactly imply an improved situation for officials eager to please a high-level delegation.

According to Asia-Plus, Rahmon will spend a week in Kulob, dedicating newly constructed schools, hospitals, and other enterprises completed and ready for christening. Hopefully, for the sake of the local officials, things don't turn out like in 2005, when, shortly after being dedicating by the president, a hastily constructed school collapsed (read in Tajik).

Either way, at least the donkeys will get a break.

-- Zach Peterson & RFE/RL's Tajik Service

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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