Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Shooting Confirms Need For Kosovo Serb National Council

Momcilo Trajkovic's shooting on Sunday has confirmed the importance of the newly formed Serb National Council for Kosovo's remaining Serbs.
By Petar Jeknic

If Momcilo Trajkovic needed confirmation of the importance of the newly formed Serb National Council for Kosovo and Metohija for the province's remaining Serbs, he got it, and more, late on Sunday night when he was shot in the leg in front of his front door.


The leader of the Serb Resistance Movement (SPO) and newly appointed president of the Serb National Council's executive committee, is now staying with a friend in Caglavica, a Serb enclave, just outside Pristina, together with his 29-year-old son Aleksandar. The bullet remains lodged in his right leg, just above the knee, and an operation will be necessary to remove it.


Although shaken by his wound, Trajkovic, remains determined to continue his campaign for the right of Serbs to remain in Kosovo.


"This attack was an attack on all Serbs who have stayed in Kosovo, not only on me," he told IWPR. "Ethnic cleansing is continuing, but now the perpetrators are Albanians. The situation is getting out of control, but a multi-ethnic Kosovo must survive."


In the wake of the attack, the Serb National Council issued a press statement describing the attack, which it said was carried out by two Albanian-speaking men, and the way in which Trajkovic crawled to the telephone to call a KFOR patrol for help. The statement described Trajkovic as "the most prominent political opponent of [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic and ethnic Albanian terrorism".


Although in the 1980s Trajkovic helped Milosevic rise to power in Serbia on the back of Serb unrest in Kosovo and originally supported the removal of Kosovo's autonomy, he fell out with the Yugoslav president as he saw the long-term harm his policies were doing to Serb prospects in Kosovo.


Trajkovic thus set up the SPO as an alternative political vehicle for moderate Serbs and launched an inter-Serb dialogue on Kosovo to develop a different, Serb stance to the province, travelling abroad to both the United States and France before the escalation of violence in February 1998 to promote his ideas.


In the wake of the NATO bombing campaign and the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army from Kosovo, Trajkovic remained in Kosovo and on October 24 joined with other prominent Kosovo Serbs in the Gracanica monastery to form the Serb National Council.


At the founding meeting Trajkovic said: "The Serbs of Kosovo need leaders who live with their people, and not puppets who blindly carry out whatever they are told." Moreoever, alluding to Milosevic's failed policies, he added that the time has come for "The Serbs from Kosovo to take their political destiny into their own hands."


According to the most optimistic international assessments, some 100,000 Serbs remain in Kosovo, most in small enclaves or keeping a low profile in homes, surrounded by hostile Albanians.


The figure of 100,000 is, however, probably high, since Serbs continue to leave the province every day in the wake of systematic Albanian intimidation. Indeed, in the week before the shooting, Trajkovic was victim of a burglary and Kosovo Telecom, now run by Albanians, switched off both telephone lines to the office of his agricultural company.


Ordinary Serbs are not encouraged by the fact that Serb members of Kosovo's Transitional Executive Council, including Zoran Andjelkovic, the president, no longer permanently live in Kosovo. These individuals, who are viewed as close to Belgrade, now only visit the province occasionally.


"It is easy for Milosevic to make decisions about us, when he doesn't care what will happen to us and our families," says a Serb, who has fled from Pristina, to Caglavica, the Serb enclave, who asked to remain anonymous. He has left behind his flat and sent sent his wife and children to stay with relatives in Serbia. "None of Milosevic's 'couriers' have come to see us, not to mention help. How can I then support him?" he says. "If he cannot solve our problem, maybe someone else can, someone with whom the world will be willing to talk and hear our problems."


The Serb National Council is headed by Bishop Artemije Radosavljevic of Raska and Prizren and hopes to represent and provide a voice for Kosovo's remaining Serbs independent of Belgrade. Milosevic's Serbian Socialist Party (SPS) accused Trajkovic of inflicting the wound himself in an attempt to attract publicity.


Petar Jeknic is an independent journalist from Belgrade.