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Kosovo Abandoned?

Ethnic Albanian demands for independence and continued reprisals against
By IWPR

organisations operating in Kosovo.


By Shkelzen Maliqi in Pristina (BCR No. 96, 26-Nov-99)


There are rumblings of discontent among officials of the international


mission in Kosovo where complaints against the ethnic Albanian community


are on the increase.


"They only complain and accuse the foreigners, without showing signs of


respect for what we have done for them," one international official said


recently. "If they continue this way, we will have to abandon Kosovo!"


Persistent demands for independence and revenge attacks on Serbs have


provoked members of the international community - especially those unhappy


with NATO's intervention in Kosovo - into expressing some antipathy towards


Kosovo Albanians.


The West now faces a dilemma - having become involved in Kosovo to prevent


the ethnic cleansing of Albanians by Serbs, they now run the risk of


becoming implicated in the ethnic cleansing of Serbs by Albanians.


Critics of Western involvement pose the question: why get involved in


ethnic conflicts in the Balkans, where it is clear to everybody that almost


all ethnic groups follow the same policy of the ethnic redefinition,


flouting all the acceptable democratic standards?


No one is trying to play down the reality of Albanian vengeance.


Influential politicians and intellectuals in Kosovo acknowledge this


problem. But the debate has not been helped by the alarmist reactions of


some commentators.


Take, for example, Veton Surroi, owner and publisher of the Pristina daily


Koha Ditore. Surroi rightly denounced attacks on elderly people, women and


children as a clear violation of the traditional moral code of Albanian


people. But he went on to argue that such attacks illustrated the


beginnings of Albanian fascism and presented a real threat to the creation


of a democratic society in Kosovo.


While foreign observers praised Surroi's courage in denouncing such revenge


attacks, the political establishment in Kosovo reacted angrily to his


outburst. Putting aside the extremist, personal threats that ensured,


Surroi has never been denied the right to denounce revenge attacks.


But two of his statements are debatable. Surroi writes in his article that


"here we are dealing with a most vicious, organised system of violence


against Serbs" and that "this system ... is called fascism". [The article


was published in Koha Ditore as "Victims of the Victims".


See version published by IWPR as "Kosovo Fascism, Albanians' Shame," Veton


Surroi, Balkan Crisis Report No. 69, August 25, 1999. See also "Hate Speech


in Pristina," by Anthony Borden, Balkan Crisis Report No. 82, October 8,


1999.]


Surroi does not explicitly state who "stands behind this system of


organised crime". But in Kosovo, there exists only two "organised" forces


at whom such an accusation could be levelled: Ibrahim Rugova's Kosovo


Democratic League (KDL), leader of peaceful resistance in Kosovo since


1990, and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), commanded by Hashim Thaci,


leader of the interim government in Kosovo. To accuse Rugova, whose KDL


movement has been on the defensive for quite some time, would be ridiculous.


Surroi can only be referring, therefore, to the KLA - lately transformed


into the Kosovo Defense Corps, (KDC) - and the interim government of Thaci.


But there is precious little evidence to support the accusation. Thaci has


publicly condemned the violence against Serbs and other minorities and has


warned that some criminals may try to pass themselves off as members of the


KLA.


Rather than panic-monger about "organised crime" and "fascism", a more


considered explanation for Albanian violence against Serbs needs to be


understood. An explanation that takes into consideration spontaneous


reactions by individuals and groups who endured traumatic experiences


during the war and who are guided by feelings of hatred and revenge for the


loses they have suffered.


Undoubtedly some individuals are trying to exploit the situation for


criminal purposes, robbing and killing people from ethnic minorities. But


it has to be remembered that during the war an estimated 110,000 houses


were destroyed, mostly in rural areas, and that half the Kosovo population


are currently homeless.


With winter rapidly approaching these people are desperate for shelter and,


perhaps understandably, want Serbs they perceive as supporters of the


Belgrade regime to leave.


Between the departure of the Serb forces and the arrival of KFOR troops,


large swathes of Kosovo were without a single policeman. There was no


vestige of law and order. A complete lack of organisation contributed to


the levels of violence.


The key problem in Kosovo is not the prevalence of revenge attacks on


minorities but the lack of a clear concept for the protectorate. The


situation in Kosovo is unique. There is no model for the UN or the


international community to follow. The military strategists and generals


may well have a clear idea on issues of basic security, but the politicians


have yet to reach any agreement on the political future for Kosovo.


Although independence looks to be the inevitable end result, the


international community is still grappling with a justification for it. The


implications for other potential crisis spots around the world are profound.


The UN and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)


are intergovernmental organisations and require consensus before they can


act. It will be very difficult to achieve a consensus on the independence


of Kosovo. Long-term protectorate status would be unpopular with the


indigenous population and extremely costly to implement.


Obviously, Kosovo Albanians will not accept an undefined status for


purposes abstract and unreal to them, such as the handing back of Kosovo to


a reformed and democratic Yugoslavia.


The international mission in Kosovo is confronting the fact that the


province presents a much bigger problem than originally envisaged. In fact,


far from abandoning Kosovo, the international community is likely to be


burdened with it for some time to come.


Shkelzen Maliqi is a writer in Pristina.


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