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

Who's In Charge Here?

Foreign soldiers, aid workers and journalists are settling in Pristina, expecting a long stay in a post-war land where only the NGOs' acronyms are in order.
By Fron Nazi

In the Zanzi Bar, a popular drinking hole in the centre of Pristina, Ilir Bajri and his jazz quartet play a mixture of blues, jazz and traditional Albanian songs, with a bit of soul and funk for good measure.


In the early hours of the morning, the crowd, a mixture of KLA soldiers, foreign diplomats and gangsters, as well as local and international journalists, relaxes after another hectic day in the confused environment of post-war Kosovo.


The province appears anarchic. Hashim Thaci's self-appointed, provisional government, which is dominated by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), would like to rule, but the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) refuses to let it take over. As a result, no one seems to know who is in charge and no one seems willing to take responsibility for the functioning of the state.


With no police force, banking system, sanitation department, and no one to enforce laws, Kosovo is much like a train without a conductor. For now, the majority of the population is without work but seems to be getting by on the euphoria of "victory".


Local entrepreneurs have opened shops, bars, restaurants and various service companies (mostly offering cleaning for the newly arrived international community) since the end of the war and this gives a semblance of recovery.


But most people feel that they have received little from UNMIK, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), KFOR or, for that matter, the Albanian leadership. As a result, internationals and Albanians have begun blaming each other for the slow pace of reform.


UNMIK has a mandate to govern, but it lacks the political expertise to come to terms with the local political scene. As a result, Bernard Kouchner, the French administrator at the head of the UN mission, has attempted to co-opt locals to assist him govern the province.


UNMIK and the OSCE have thus formed advisory committees and boards comprised of influential local activists and politicians. These bodies have little if any decision-making power and are thus unable to tackle the myriad of problems facing Kosovo.


UNMIK's Transitional Council, the principal advisory group which contains both Albanian and Serb representatives, has frequently been in the news as a result of non-attendance. At its first meeting four weeks ago, Ibrahim Rugova, long-time Kosovo Albanian leader, failed to turn up. At the most recent, Thaci was absent.


The OSCE, which is headed by Daan Everts, who previously ran the mission in Albania and was often perceived by Albanians as running the Tirana government, has been asked by Kouchner to oversee the newly formed Media Board. The Board has been mandated to monitor local media and establish a code of conduct for journalists.


With more than 250 international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) staking their claims to assist in the reconstruction and democratisation of Kosovo, duplication of effort appears inevitable.


The UNHCR Inter-Agency Co-ordination Unit has been charged with trying to keep both the NGO community and the respective international organisations abreast of who is who and who is doing what. However, there appears little co-operation among the international NGOs.


Although the Inter-Agency updates its contact list every week, the only tangible co-operation or co-ordination between international and local NGOs appears to be the awarding of acronyms. Much like the patent office, an acronym is given on a first-come-first-serve basis.


For example, there is the IRC and the IRRC, that is the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Iranian Relief Committee (IRRC). Apparently the IRC arrived in Kosovo first.


As Albanians return to jobs in state-owned companies they had occupied before 1989, UNMIK is obliged to remind them that they remain under Belgrade's laws and regulations. Meanwhile, UNMIK insists on multi-ethnic proportionality in appointments to state posts.


Concerning hiring, UNMIK has made state-owned Pristina radio an example. It has overseen recruitment of equal numbers of Albanians, Serbs, and Turks, but divided airtime on a proportional basis. One hour of programming per day is for Albanians, with a half-hour for both Serb and Turkish minorities.


As to the issue of ownership, UNMIK is in the process of evaluating the legal aspects of the state and socially owned enterprises. Meanwhile, it and the other international governmental organisations have begun using the office space - free of charge.


Drinkers in the Zanzi Bar - both Albanian and foreign - discuss Kosovo's future and issues of sovereignty, independence and an international protectorate. With no easy solutions, only one thing appears certain: the foreigners will be around for a long time to come.


Fron Nazi is a senior editor with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.