Ibrahim Rugova’s decade-long leadership in Kosovo

By Jan Oberg

TFF Pressinfo 140 – December 14, 2001

Originally published here.

 

Ten years ago it was not impossible to see…

Ten years ago, TFF’s conflict-mitigation team started working with Dr. Ibrahim Rugova and LDK people in the belief that a) they were the best dialogue partners Belgrade could hope to get, and b) they were the only political leadership in ex-Yugoslavia that advocated non-violence, albeit pragmatic. I have no evidence that they have ever read a line by, say, Gandhi.

We participated in formulating characteristics of the independent Kosova they aimed at: it should be a region with no military, open border to all sides and politically neutral. We helped devise negotiation strategies and facilitated the only written dialogue between them and governments in Belgrade between 1992 and 1996. The foundation produced a concrete plan for a negotiated solution. See Preventing war in Kosovo (1992) and UNTANS (1996).

Our team quickly learned to respect the complexity and difficulties of the Kosovo conflict. We were privileged to repeatedly listen to the deep-held views and animosities among various Albanians, Serbs and other ethnic groups in Kosovo as well as to many and different parties in Belgrade. We knew that the international community played with fire by not attending to this conflict and tried to alert it.

This shaped the basis for our later scepticism about the faked ‘negotiations’ in Rambouillet and NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia including Kosovo. A committed, impartial and competent international civil-political intervention could have mitigated the conflict in the early 1990s. And even if this opportunity was missed, bombings would not produce peace, trust, tolerance, reconciliation or a willingness to live and work together.

 

The West chose Kosovo’s militants as allies instead

Already ten years ago, Dr. Rugova was the undisputed leader of the Kosovo-Albanians. He received a lot of lip-service during missions to Western capitals. Reality was that Western governments in typical ‘covert operations’ from 1992-93 helped create, equip and train hard-liners behind his back, who became the later Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA or UCK. Dr. Rugova was marginalised and the U.S. in particular played with the KLA, which at the time was officially categorised by U.S. diplomats as “a terrorist organisation.” Later on, NATO performed the role of KLA’s airforce and the civilian UN mission (UNMIK) and the military KFOR-NATO missions were set up.

These missions officially declared UCK disbanded and illegal but let it continue operating partly as UCK/KLA and partly as the civilian Kosovo Protection Corps, KPC. The internationals consistently kept on allying themselves more with the leaders of the KLA, (Hacim Thaci, for instance) and KPC (Agim Ceku,for instance) whilst de facto accepting the illegal violence and mafia-based power structure established by them immediately after the war throughout the province.

In other words, Rugova and LDK were marginalised during the period when a negotiated solution could have been found, then during the Rambouillet process, then after the bombing and, finally, after the municipal elections when LDK won a landslide victory but did not get proportional backing by the international administration. As the standard response runs among the internationals: “we want to control and democratise the hardliners and keep them in the process, therefore we cannot also antagonise them.” Dr. Kouchner, the former head of the UN mission (UNMIK) was instrumental in institutionalising this cosy Western relationship with warlords and mafia leaders.

Since July 1999, this policy has yielded absolutely no results, except ethnic cleansing, destruction of democratic potentials, more mafia economy and criminality, and two KLA incursions, one into Southern Serbia and one into Macedonia.

 

UNMIK must now stop its vain courting of warlords

In this perspective, Ibrahim Rugova is an extraordinary figure in Balkan politics. [Read more…]

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Good news: Yugoslavia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 139 – December 11, 2001

Originally published here.

 

At least three recent pieces of good news from the Balkans have passed virtually unnoticed:

– Yugoslavia has established a Commission for Truth and Reconciliation.

– Dr. Ibrahim Rugova’s and LDK’s election victory opens new prospects for reconciliation in Kosovo/a.

– Non-violence has proved to be stronger than police repression and authoritarian rule in Serbia and stronger than extremist violence by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK) in Kosovo.

Contrary to violence and war, non-violence and opportunities for reconciliation don’t make it to the headlines. As a matter of fact, they don’t make it to the media at all. Destructive news furthers pessimism and the feeling of powerlessness. Constructive or good news furthers the opposite and signals that peace may, in spite of all, be possible. In short, those in power, as well as power-loyal media, naturally prefer the former rather than the latter.

These three news items contain important evidence that should begin a debate about the lessons to be learned by the international community regarding its conflict-management in the Balkans since 1991. Regrettably, such a debate – broad-based, democratic and multi-ethnic – does not yet exist.

TFF PressInfo 139, 140 and 141 will deal with each of these news items. PressInfo 142 will address why reconciliation inside Kosovo is absolutely essential for the future.

 

A few words about reconciliation and forgiveness

Every hope for peace in the Balkans, as well as in every other war-torn region, rests on the willingness of the local parties to eventually reach out and deal openly with what happened and why. Reconciliation is not about forgetting. It is about learning to live with the facts, the memory and the pain. It takes two or more people and it can be achieved neither by loans and credits, reconstruction of houses, nor by people in uniform or promises about future integration in international organisations.

Reconstruction of souls is ‘soft.’ It takes much longer time than other types of post-war reconstruction. We have no international ‘armies’ or pools of experts and specialised humanitarian workers on stand-by anywhere.

The other human dimension of post-war healing is forgiveness. It’s basically a unilateral initiative. I decide to forgive someone who has killed my loved ones or hurt me because I consciously want to free myself from the all-absorbing hate; I abstain from the ‘right’ or wish to retaliate or get revenge . I thereby signal that I say ‘no’ to these options in order to invite others to do the same. We can choose to forgive for the sake of our own healthy living in the future or because we recognise that is what will help future generations to live together with tolerance and respect. [Read more…]

Moving Macedonia toward peace

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 123 – June 2001

Originally published here.

 

The following proposals are presented exclusively out of a deep concern over the deteriorating situation in Macedonia/FYROM. It’s an act of goodwill from TFF.

We want to help everyone in Macedonia strengthen their belief in peace and work for it with hope and persistence. The aim of this PressInfo is to stimulate concerned citizen and political leaders in Macedonia, in the region and elsewhere around the world to produce ideas that can help turn Macedonia away from the abyss.

You may find some of the ideas and proposals “unrealistic.” But please look deeply into the problem; then you will also recognise that the idea of war and killing to solve social and psychological problems and bring about peace is even more unrealistic.

Those who insist on solving conflict predominantly, or exclusively, by peaceful means are at one with the Charter of the United Nations. Conflicts simply happen and are legitimate parts of any human group in development. But we must begin to recognise that violence is just an added problem, not the solution. It is easy to abstain from violence when we are at peace and in harmony. The test of civilisation, of whether we have learnt to clash as civilised creatures or not, stands exactly when we are most prone to pull a trigger.

The peoples in the Balkans and the so-called international community have pulled enough triggers. Macedonia’s problems are more dangerous than most we have seen as they could spill over, for the first time, to countries which are not part of former Yugoslavia. Handling the complex conflicts in today’s Macedonia therefore requires new thinking and courageous initiatives.

To put it bluntly, it won’t be enough to have single diplomats come visiting a few hours wringing their empty hands Solana style. The sounds of war drown their press conference mantras about “progress” and “understanding” and “stopping violence.”

The numbers below do not indicate priorities. Some of the things can be done by some actors, while others do other things. That is precisely what peace is about: a plurality of mutually supporting initiatives rather than a linear process.

 

1. Establish a National Truth and Co-Existence Commission

Most wars are made possible by propaganda, lies, stereotyping, rumours, threats and deception. They are fuelled by untruth. [Read more…]

Macedonia – not innocent

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 120 – May 17, 2001

Originally published here.

 

PressInfo 118 offers an independent analysis of 11 reasons why Macedonia is at the brink of war. Number 119 deals with the way the United Nations was forced out of Macedonia and not employed in Kosovo at the time when it could have made a difference. In short, there was a hidden agenda. This one deals mainly with the obvious question:

 

Is Macedonia and its various groups totally innocent?

Of course not! In some respects there is more repression of the Albanians in Macedonia than in Kosovo. Thus, for instance, Pristina University was the centre of learning for Albanians while for almost a decade the issue of higher education for Albanians have been controversial and, since 1997, the Tetovo University considered illegal by the majority. Albanians do not play a role commensurate to the proportion they make up of the population (25 – 40 pct depending on sources); whether this is a relevant criteria is another matter. If you go to the National Museum in Skopje you will not see a trace of Albanian culture. The constitution is ethnic-oriented rather than citizens-oriented.

In spite of all this, it is important to emphasise that the situation in no way justifies armed struggle or the extremist claims on both sides that ‘the others’ understand only weapons. True, it is not a perfect world, but the de facto presence of Albanians in politics, trade, schools and media in today’s Macedonia make the claim that “we are so repressed and nothing else will help so we must take to weapons” one that borders on hysteria or propaganda.

Those in Macedonia who had it in their power to do so never really sustained an honest inter-ethnic dialogue throughout society or at a government level. Informal segregation is practised by both sides in schools, media, clubs, restaurants and residential areas: “We don’t mix with ‘them’ – “we can’t live together but perhaps as neighbours” – “I would never have a boyfriend among them” – are statements visitors have heard repeated year after year. [Read more…]

Why Milosevic won’t get to the Hague

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 100 – October 11, 2000

Originally published here.

 

Western politicians insist that Slobodan Milosevic must be brought to the Hague Tribunal and stand trial as a war criminal. Media and commentators raise the issue time and again. But there are reasons to believe that this is make-believe.

The indictment of Milosevic leaves much to be explained – for instance, why he is indicted only for crimes committed in 1999 but not before – and certain Western countries would hardly want him to be on record in the Hague with a few things that he may know about them.

The West would, therefore, do wise to drop this issue now and let Yugoslavia deal with Milosevic.

It seems that few have bothered to read the text of the indictment of Milosevic and four other high-level government officials of Thursday May 27, 1999. Among other things it states:

“As pointed out by Justice Arbour in her application to Judge Hunt, “this indictment is the first in the history of this Tribunal to charge a Head of State during an on-going armed conflict with the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law”.

The indictment alleges that, between 1 January and late May 1999, forces under the control of the five accused persecuted the Kosovo Albanian civilian population on political, racial or religious grounds. By the date of the indictment, approximately 740,000 Kosovo Albanians, about one-third of the entire Kosovo Albanian population, had been expelled from Kosovo. Thousands more are believed to be internally displaced. An unknown number of Kosovo Albanians have been killed in the operations by forces of the FRY and Serbia. Specifically, the five indictees are charged with the murder of over 340 persons identified by name in an annex to the indictment.

Each of the accused is charged with three counts of crimes against humanity and one count of violations of the laws or customs of war.”

 

Limited indictment and dubious facts

As will be seen, Milosevic is indicted for activities limited to the period January 1 and late May 1999, i.e. during the local war between Kosovo-Albanian forces (KLA/UCK) and various Serb/Yugoslav forces and for activities during NATO’s bombings which started on March 24 and went on for 78 days.

At the time the Tribunal could not know any precise facts or numbers. What we do know today from public, reliable sources is that a considerable part of the information about killings and ethnic cleansing was exaggerated or false.

At the time of the indictment, facts could not be verified by independent sources [Read more…]

Background on Kosovo – and the management of it*

By Jan Oberg

Manuscript about Kosovo for the World Bank 

26 June 2000

 

A word about diagnosing conflict

A conflict is a problem that arises out of two or more actors’ incompatible expectations, needs or values. The sine qua non of effective conflict-mitigation (or -transformation) is comprehensive quality analysis of the root causes (diagnosis) of that problem. Without it, interventions to ‘manage’ or help solve somebody else’s conflict and prevent/stop violence will invariable fail – as will surgery on a patient whose disease is unknown to the doctor. You may add that violence is usually not the root cause of a conflict but, rather, a consequence of maltreated, ignored or otherwise non-resolved conflicts.

There is a tendency in Western culture to locate conflict (and violence, but the two are not idenical) in certain actors only. Thus, conflict is often defined as a good guy being attacked or quarelling with an evil guy about one object such as land, rights, resources, etc. Many therefore believe that conflict-resolution is about punishing the designated bad guy, rewarding his counterpart and then things will be fine.

Making “evil” the root cause is much too imprecise to serve as a diagnosis (as it would be to say that a disease is caused by demons in the body). In addition, it begs the philosophical question: What drives humans to do inhuman – evil – things to each other?

This approach is indicative of ‘conflict illiteracy’ – a recipe for failure: Conflicts are not only rooted in individuals (although, of course acted out by and through them) but also in structures in time and space, in circumstances and trends – in the “Karma.” This approach also overlooks that there are never only two parties and that most actors behave as more or less grey, rather than black and white.

 

The case of Kosovo

So, what’s is the conflict – the problems that lead to the violence – in Kosovo all about?

Having worked there over the 9 years, I would say: it is not predominantly about human rights violations or ethnic cleansing, they are symptoms of deeper lying problems, but – most unfortunately – the only aspects the so-called international community has focussed on hitherto.

As in so many other conflicts there is a history going decades, if not centuries, back in time. There is constitutional matters, general political and specific Yugo-structural features. There is a series of regional dimensions involving neighbouring countries.

And there is economic mal-development. If the GNP of Kosovo is set at 100, Slovenia (1984) had 766, Serbia without Voivodina  and Kosovo 375, Macedonia 249 – and the income gap between the richer and poorer republics and peoples in Tito’s Yugoslavia began to increase rapidly in the 1980s. Structurally more advantaged republics such as Croatia and Slovenia paid considerable parts of their profits to the federal redistribution mechanism, but much of it ended up in corrupted pockets, showplace extravagant public buildings and in land purchases in Macedonia – little left for productive investments in Kosovo.

Depending on the definition, at least 55 per cent of those seeking work were unemployed; illiteracy passed 20 per cent and perhaps as many as 400,000 kids were out of the regular schools; over 40 per cent of the people had no access to tap water, only 28 per cent lived in areas with a sewage system.

Kosovo had the highest birth rate and the highest infant mortality rate in Europe; more than 50 per cent of the citizens were below 20, the average age being 24 years of age. Albanians made up 67 per cent of the population in the province in 1961 (they also lived elsewhere in former Yugoslavia, some sources say 100.000 in Belgrade alone), they appear to have risen to about 90 per cent in the 1990s.  [Read more…]

A bouquet of peace ideas to Macedonia … and Kosovo

By Jan Oberg and many others

TFF PressInfo 80 – November 22, 1999

Originally published here.

 

”With e-mail and Internet it has become so much more easy to generate and share ideas instantly. Below you find 53 different ideas about peace in Macedonia from people around the world who responded to our call in the preceding PressInfo. It’s a free gift to anyone who cares to listen and take inspiration – many could also be implemented in Kosovo,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

“Our respondents are not a representative sample but, among other things, this exciting experiment shows that:

1) there are so many ideas out there and an amazing willingness to contribute constructively;

2) people who have not been to Macedonia can share ideas and initiatives that have worked in other conflicts, a general body of knowledge and experiences are developing;

3) they focus much more on the human dimensions of conflict-resolution than governments do;

4) they by and large reject military means in peacebuilding, and

5) they focus on local forces and bottom-up approaches rather than top-down, foreign imposed peace – indeed, quite a few tell us right away that the West in general and NATO in particular should stay away. This is a very moving appeal. People obviously must be given a chance to find their own solutions.

We have chosen not to list the ideas theme-wise. Enjoy them as a bouquet. We just edited and shortened what we got – in some cases actually whole articles.

TFF does not endorse every idea, but we convey them all for your inspiration,” says Oberg.

 

Develop a true image of the place

It’s a great problem that, regarding the Balkans, East Timor, Colombia, Haiti, Ecuador, Cuba, North Korea and many places in Africa, we may not have a broad enough image of what it is all about. Modern media should show us peacebuilding efforts, accompaniment, non-violent direct-action and cover it live. That would give people hope that something can be done. So, peace news and not only war news, please.

 

NATO is not for peace

It is disastrous for Macedonia and others to accept NATO as the “international community”; NATO is a military alliance of countries whose goals are the realisation of the policies and interests of the transnational corporations and the economic neo-liberal agenda of the wealthy countries. And each country with its specific problems should not expect NATO to solve them by means of its standard military package.

 

Go for the European Union, in spite of all

The far-from-perfect European Union points to the economic advantages of cooperation and the increased political clout of the whole region. It is a feasible model of a union of sovereign states, particularly if they pursue a course of people-oriented social and economic policies. [Read more…]

The world needs reconciliation centres

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 76 – August 20, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Crotian version here.

 

“Do you remember Kim, the 9-year old Vietnamese girl, running as she was hit by napalm from U.S. warplanes in 1972? That picture haunted John Plummer for 24 years; he’d been a helicopter pilot and helped organise the napalm raid.

His marriage crashed, he isolated himself and took to drinking; he eventually became a Methodist pastor in Virginia. In 1996, Kim and John met and he says: ‘Kim saw my grief, my pain, my sorrow…She held out her arms to me and embraced me. All I could say was ‘I’m sorry; I’m sorry – over and over again. And at the same time she was saying, ‘It’s all right, I forgive you.’ They are now good friends, and call each other regularly.*

This may be a unique story, but how can we talk about restoring peace after wars’ hurt and harm without paying attention to the human aspects of conflicts in general and that of forgiveness and reconciliation in particular?” asks TFF director Jan Oberg. “I think we need to make forgiveness and reconciliation a central objective: in research and studies, in training and education and, above all, we should empower every civilian and military – and every international organisation engaged in war-torn societies – to work for it with the locals.

“Take a look at Bosnia and Croatia since 1995, look at Kosovo now, or Somalia, or…Have people really held out their arms or said ‘I forgive you’? Come together in trust? Have they learnt how to deal with the past, not in order to forget it or to blame each other, but to acknowledge what happened and find ways to avoid it ever happening again? Can that even be said about South Africa?

It is easy to repair houses and infrastructure, it’s easy to throw money around and talk about human rights? But what if people deep down keep on hating each other and won’t even dream about doing what Kim and John did? Will they themselves ever be happy and at peace with themselves? Will their children? What kind of society will it be if we cannot also, so to speak, repair souls and help create tolerance, co-existence, even cooperation and love?”

Jan Oberg continues, “One of the most moving experiences in my life was when, together with TFF team members, we helped a few Croats and Serbs in Eastern Slavonia, Croatia, come together: young boys and girls as well as the parent generation who were permitted for the first time to talk face-to-face about what had happened – but to stick to facts only and ‘I language’ and avoid blaming. Many cried, successively many laughed together – some now are friends and some do projects together – and, yes, some have left or lost hope again. TFF keeps working there today.

It made me understand how neglected the whole issue of ‘soul reconstruction’ is – and how vain everything else will be without it. You can pour any amount of dollars into Kosovo – it will not create peace unless we also, in deep respect and cooperation with the locals on all side, do something that can not be measured in money terms. [Read more…]

Forums for human rights and peace education in Eastern Slavonia – and elsewhere

By Jan Oberg

October 11, 1998

Originally published here.

“This is a modest proposal for institutionalisation of peace-related teaching in regions of conflict. It’s a Citizens Forum for Human Rights and Peace Education, HR&PE. It mentions Croatia but is equally relevant for, let’s say, Kosovo or Macedonia, or any other trouble spot. You may think that this is relevant only after war, but I strongly believe that forums like this should be created wherever the situation threatens to erupt into violence. If the trigger-happy international “community” had invested in such projects – both in their own ministries of foreign affairs, in international organisations and in trouble spots such as Kosovo – 5 or 10 years ago, people on all sides would begin to realise the utter futility of using weapons to achieve their goals,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

“You see, there are no limits to what can be done to help people coexist in postwar communities. The international community has no specialised competence or organisations in this field. Post-war reconciliation is the most important measure to prevent future outbreaks of violence – and we must focus particularly on children and youth,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

“TFF has been working for more than one year with reconciliation issues in Eastern Slavonia, Croatia. We have analysed problems of co-operation in many schools, served as resource persons at three UN/Council of Europe seminars for principals and teachers, helped about 120 Croat and Serb gymnasium students to see a better future together and we’ve supported local Serb media in their wish to contribute to reconciliation. Just a couple of weeks ago, TFF conducted a seminar with CINES – the Citizens Initiative Network Eastern Slavonia that we helped create in June, an effort to bring mixed groups of teachers, media people and all NGOs together as they are all educators.” [Read more…]

Time to try true nonviolence in Kosovo/a

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 46 – September 4, 1998

Original reprinted here.


“In Kosovo/a both Dr. Rugova’s non-violence and KLA’s violence have failed. They seem both to lack political analysis and a clear cut philosophical basis, and thus strategy. The alternative to Kosovo-Albanian pragmatic nonviolence, however, is NOT terrorism and military struggle. The alternative could be principled nonviolence and political innovation based upon realism,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.


Under Dr. Ibrahim Rugova’s leadership the Kosovo-Albanians fought for their independence from Serbia with non-violent means up till 1996 when the clandestine Kosova Liberation Army – having armed itself since 1992-93 – appeared on the scene. It was the only political leadership in ex-Yugoslavia that followed non-violence and also favoured a neutral, non-military, soft-bordered independent republic, Kosova. In short, it was the wisest and most innovative political movement in the region.

The KLA has, at least for the time being, altered the political situation in Kosovo/a conflict. And to the worse! During my recent conversation with Dr. Rugova, on July 31, he assured me that LDK and he himself stand firmly on non-violence.

But what kind of non-violence? To put it crudely, it is a sympathetic pragmatic non-violence rather than philosophical or principled nonviolence. When principled, we say “nonviolence” in one word, not “non-violence,” Jan Oberg explains. “Dr. Rugova is a moderate, cultured, low-voiced and pretty dogged personality. I have had the privilege to meet him several times for hour long, informal discussions since 1992. I have no doubt that he is by heart convinced that Kosova’s independence must be achieved by non-violence rather than by violence.

LDK’s and Rugova’s policies have been called “Gandhian” – by people who don’t know much about Gandhi. But there are some similarities. Perhaps the most impressive achievements in terms of true nonviolence in the parallel state of Kosova shall not be found in the political sphere but in civil society of Kosova.

The development of an international information system and media presence – through fax, e-mail and websites – and the international diplomatic activity is impressing; indeed, much more so than that of Serbia/Yugoslavia.

The development of parallel cultural, social and health sectors in Kosova is “Gandhian” in many ways. It has not harmed the opponent, but it has provided the minimum for Albanian teachers, children and youth who, particularly from 1990, did not feel welcome in the school system run by Belgrade. One can always discuss the quality of such alternative health and education systems; I was told that 20 000 teachers are paid by the Kosova government. And it is estimated that it costs the equivalent of US $ 1,5 million per day in total to keep the Kosova state as such operating. This sum is generated inside Kosova but mostly collected outside by appealing to all Albanians in the Diaspora to pay 3 % of their income to the Kosova state.

All this would have been impossible had there not been a strong public support for such a non-violent strategy inside Kosova. Also, the non-violent policies – not very isomorphic with the culture of Albanians in general – was a stabilising, moderating factor during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. One hardly dares think of what could have happened if hotheads, not Rugova, had been in charge of Kosova at the time!” – says Oberg.

*

“However impressive and unique these achievements are, the real problem began, I believe, when the Kosovars proclaimed their sovereign republic of Kosova and its cessation from Serbia on July 2nd, 1990. They did so on the steps outside the parliament in the turmoil following the clamp-down by the Serbian authorities on (parts of) their autonomy and the expelling of MPs from the parliament building. On September 22, 1991, when the Kosova Republic’s parallel parliament declared the state independent and had this decision confirmed by a referendum organised clandestinely a few days later. In other words, a historical moment of panic.

This was ‘symbol politics’ – something Gandhi would hardly have done. The dilemma thus created is evident: if you tell, or promise, your 2 million people that they already live in the Independent Kosova, ANY negotiation with Serbia, Yugoslavia or the international community would mean a backing down from this maximalist position – and maximalist it was as seen by Belgrade as well as by the international community. This is the reason that no state, except at the time Albania, recognised the Kosova Republic. Youth who were about 10 years old when their parents told them that they lived in Independent Kosova are now entering university education and becoming politically conscious; they become very frustrated when they find out that this self-proclaimed state is a parallel society with gigantic socio-economic problems and quite some hardships and certainly not a real state.

This explains why the Kosovo-Albanian leadership has been consistently negative to negotiations – although declaring themselves for it, if an international Third Party participated. My own experience from carrying messages back and forth over four years is quite clear on this point: it was NEVER the right time for Dr. Rugova to start negotiations. Also, in spite of the fact that the Kosovo-Albanians, had they participated in Yugoslav elections, could have ousted Milosevic, they refused to do so. Those who advocated participation in elections were seen as traitors. The strategy required someone ‘evil’ in Belgrade also to mobilize sympathy abroad.

This whole strategy is clearly un-Gandhian, clearly unprincipled. Gandhi would have sought actively to establish a face-to-face dialogue and built alliances with ‘good’ Serbs. So was the idea of advocating non-violence while simultaneously calling for NATO to protect, alternatively bomb, Serbian territory in support for Kosova’s independence. I know that Dr. Rugova saw this dilemma all the time, but the hardliners and militarist-romantic hotheads would not hear a word about negotiations. “We already ARE independent, so what is there to talk with fascist Serbia about,” they would often tell you.

Un-Gandhian was also the repeated advocacy of tougher sanctions against Serbia and Serbs. A true Gandhian sees no point in harming the opponent and certainly not the opponent’s innocent citizens. Furthermore, the typical stereotyping of all Serbs that you find so widespread – “seen one, you’ve seen them all, and they are bad guys” was a great mistake. An even greater mistake – from a Gandhian viewpoint – was that nothing was done by LDK to introduce peace and human rights education and conflict understanding in the alternative schools. And they did not link up with local Serbs and the Serb people elsewhere. LDK has information centres around the world but not in Belgrade where it is most needed!

Then there is the problem of political creativity and energy: it is evident that the Kosovo-Albanian leadership have entertained a number of illusions or high but unrealistic hopes: a) that the Dayton process would include Kosovo; b) that the world would not recognise Yugoslavia with the Kosovo province inside it, and c) that the world’s support for the human rights of Kosovo-Albanians was identical with a support for the project of an independent republic. When these turned out to be false hopes, the leadership lost momentum and got paralysed. There was no fall-back strategy and no revision of means and goals. Public dialogue was stifled and people started leaving LDK. It’s sad, but that’s the way it is,” says Oberg.

“So, is a military struggle the alternative? Of course not, it’s a blunder, a dangerous intellectual and moral short circuit. You hear again and again that it is understandable, people are so frustrated. But the clandestine, illegal arms build-up started 5-6 years ago, not last year.

Many have criticised Rugova for choosing ‘passive’ non-violence. They wanted more activism, more visibility. Why have elections, critics would argue, when during all these years Rugova refused to assemble the Kosova parliament? Why not have demonstrations and peaceful marches and strikes all over the region, why not sit-downs, go-slow actions, civil disobedience, obstruction of the factories – all nonviolently?

These are very good questions,” comments Jan Oberg. I believe that the education and training of all citizens for such activities – and they would be dangerous without such education and training – was never contemplated by Rugova’s leadership. On the other hand, we must be careful with words here: the build-up of a parallel society is not exactly expressions of passivity. But, in addition to that, something was missing – because this WAS NOT a Gandhian, nonviolent politics.

Be this as it may, Rugova’s answer today is that they chose the right way under the circumstances – that if more radical methods had been employed “we would not be here today” as he told me recently. Paradoxically, however, the only time the Kosova Parliament assembled was this July, in the midst of heavy fighting in the province, not the safest moment. But it was allowed to and important ceremonial functions took some 20 minutes before the MPs left. Remarkably, there was no attempt by Serbian authorities to prevent the Assembly or interrupt it. (See PressInfo 45 about the tolerance also shown by Belgrade over the years).

*

For quite some time, oppositional Albanian intellectuals and politicians have accused LDK/Rugova of lacking a sense of democracy, flexibility and building consensus. That he doesn’t listen, or listens but doesn’t do anything. Some even say that he is in collusion with Milosevic. It DOES look strange” says Jan Oberg, “that there is still no government formed since the elections in March. And the way the new – much too narrow – negotiation team was composed is totally non-transparent. Many of these intellectuals now uncritically embrace KLA/UCK and argue that ‘the alternative to non-violence is this militant struggle.’

First, it is impossible to see KLA/UCK as more democratic or more tolerant of diverse opinions than Rugova’s leadership. Indeed, it has refused to be under any democratic political control and public accountability; many perform under false names and nobody seem to know who is leading which fraction and responsible for which activities. Citizens of the Kosova Republic have not been granted any opportunity to voice their opinion on whether or not to switch from non-violence to a militant policy or directly violent struggle. Sadly, Kosova’s citizens have now either been victimised directly by KLA’s own activity and forced ‘recruitment’ or indirectly by the counterattacks of Serb forces that hit them severely. SECOND, it is interesting to see that Mr. Adem Demaqi has become the political leader or spokesman of the KLA. For quite some time Mr. Demaqi has advocated a “Balkania” solution which implies, among other things, that Kosovo should become a third republic of Yugoslavia. Although this can be seen as a step towards cessation, it is moderate in comparison with Rugova’s maximalist goal of total independence. In terms of means, Demaqi until recently promoted maximalist active nonviolence which contrasts Rugova’s minimalist means. So the KLA has chosen a political figure who has advocated goals and means directly opposite to those of KLA! And so, Mr Demaqi has quickly radicalized his rhetoric.

So, yes, there are contradictions in Rugova’s policies and it seems that his movement has run out of vision and energy. The contradictions in and among the opposition to him seems, however, to be considerably bigger,” Oberg points out. While Rugova has been running on symbol politics, he still has one major advantage: no blood on his hands.

One may ask how long time it will take for the Albanian advocates and practitioners of violence to recognise that violence makes ANY process, ANY settlement and ANY future life more, not less, difficult.

The KLA has already failed in four ways: 1) morally because it started with terror and has announced that it intends to return to it; 2) militarily because it miscalculated the ‘balance of forces,’ thought it could create and hold liberated towns and thought it would be rescued by NATO; 3) politically because its spokesperson talks about all Albanians in one state, and 4) democratically because it is not a genuine guerrilla movement that ‘swims in the sea’ of its citizens and is loved by them. Fear is everywhere.

*

But is principled nonviolence not far to weak in the face of a repressive regime such as Belgrade? We don’t know the answer,” says Oberg. “It has been practised neither in Belgrade nor in Kosovo (or elsewhere in ex-Yugoslavia for that matter). But it was nonviolent popular movement that put an end to the Marcos regime, to the Shah of Iran and mobilised the world opinion against the Vietnam war. It put an end to authoritarian communist Poland – Solidarnosc – and carried the ‘velvet revolution’ in Czechoslovakia. What would have happened if they had fought with weapons against these militarily much stronger enemies? It was peace movements, women, dissidents AND Michael Gorbachev who – non-violently – put an end to the Cold War and paved the way for a very significant reduction in the world’s nuclear arsenals. These are no small achievements in human history!” – emphasizes TFF director Oberg, “but, true, they are never presented as victories for nonviolence in our media, so its potentials remain largely hidden.”

He concludes, “Like a military battle can be fought in different ways, so can a non-violent struggle. The alternative to passive non-violence is NOT violence and terror, not even in the face of violence and terror. It is a different, principled – and of course active – nonviolence based not on make-believe politics but on real politics in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

For decades Kosovo has been the shining illustration of Gandhi’s famous dictum that “the principle of an eye for an eye will one day make the whole world blind.” Hardline politicians and trigger-happy people on both sides have been blinded long enough. Everyone should be able to now SEE that violence, also having been tried now by the Albanian side, won’t do the trick. And if it did, the liberated Kosova would become a garrison state, a state imbued with repression, a mirror of the state it seceded from and, perhaps, the scene of a civil war.

The potentials of principled nonviolence is not consumed in Kosovo/a. In fact, it has not been tried yet. It will have to be re-invented by new energies. Indeed, that is the only means that can produce a viable solution. One wonders why the international community, from left to right, produces so many voices from a dark age senselessly advocating NATO violence as THE solution. What’s wrong with nonviolence based on analysis and coherent conflict-mitigation principles? Why don’t we see diplomats, experts and media explore the potentials and teach the strengths of such a strategy?” [Read more…]

TFF helps Croatia get a US$ 40 million World Bank loan

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 41 – June 30, 1998

Originally published here.

The World Bank last week approved a DEM 74 million (US$40.6 million equivalent) Reconstruction Project for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srijem Loan for Croatia. The project area is one of the most fertile parts of the Balkans and prior to the war, was known as the “bread basket” of the region. Due to damage to the extensive flood control and drainage system, much of the agricultural land has become unusable. The project will:

1) Repair and rebuild the flood control and drainage facilities;

2) Clear the landmines left behind in the flood control network;

3) Provide for sound and sustainable environmental management of the adjoining nature reserve at Kopacki rit;

4) Rebuild a partially completed wastewater system in one of the major towns in the area.

The World Bank explains that the project is expected to make a major contribution in stimulating the local economy, thereby creating an incentive for people to return home. It is an important contribution to reconstruction [Read more…]

Reconciliation through a history and school book commission – in Croatia and elsewhere

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 40 – June 1998

Originally published here.

“Postwar initiatives can help prevent future policies of revenge, violence and outbursts of repressed traumas. It is possible to develop policies of reconciliation and trust-building and take initiatives which encourage citizens to take steps toward forgiving. One such initiative could be the setting up of history and school book commissions. A truthful approach to history is a vital element in shaping a future together and help the next generations live peacefully in spite of what happened,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

In societies which have gone through civil wars, one or more parties can choose to be triumphalistic, punishing or humiliating, an option often chosen by winners. They can also decide to be reconciliatory and tolerant and help innocent citizens irrespective of the side to which they belong and thus set an example for the young who will be future leaders. Reconciliation speech can replace hate speech.

This choice depends on the types of atrocities committed, on the configuration between winners and losers, if any. It depends on the personality of leaders and the character of their government. It also depends on their understanding of – and the availability of expertise in – what it takes to provide future generations with the minimum conditions for their living and prospering peacefully together in spite of what happened. And, naturally, on the culture, norms and traditions of the particular war-torn society.

In addition, the so-called international “community” can decide to reward reconciliatory policies with former adversaries or turn the blind eye to ongoing hate policies and triumphalism. [Read more…]

By Jan Oberg

June 1998

Originally published here


EASTERN SLAVONIA – GENERAL BACKGROUND

The mission of the UN in Eastern Slavonia, UNTAES, was the peaceful reintegration of the region of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium into the Republic of Croatia. Until January 15, 1998, UNTAES exercised authority over this region through a basic agreement of 12 November 1995 and through UN Security Council resolutions 1037 of 15 January 1996 and 1120 of 11 July 1997.

The follow-up consists of only a small group of UN Civil Police and Civil Affairs staff. OSCE has less than 200 personnel in place. There are also some European military monitors (ECMM, the white suited brigade) who continue to be in the region. All executive power has been handed over to the Croatian government; the international organisations only monitor.

According to the census of 1991, before the war 45 thousand people lived in Vukovar of whom 47% were Croat, 32% Serb and the rest were of other minorities; 35 thousand lived in Vinkovci, 80% Croat, 11% Serb; 105 thousand in Osijek, 70% Croat, 12% Serb.

At the end of the UN mission, about 80,000 Serbs lived in the region about a quarter of whom were DP’s mainly from Western Slavonia. Very few Croats are now there although they have the right to return to their former home places. Croatian police has taken over duties from UN personnel during spring 1998. An exodus of Serbs was considered a likely consequence of the UN leaving the region, but it seems that they are departing on a more slow, regular basis – many to Serbia and some to Norway and Canada. [Read more…]

https://yugoslavia-what-should-have-been-done.org/1998/06/15/516/

Good news from Western Slavonia, Croatia

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 37 – June 1998

Originally published here

“Most of what you hear from Croatia and the Balkans nowadays is negative. The good news is that it is possible to bring young Croats and Serbs together and help them develop an atmosphere of trust, tolerance and reconciliation. It gives us hope,” says Jan Oberg, head of TFF’s conflict-mitigation team, returning from the foundation’s 30th mission to what was once Yugoslavia.

Last month TFF conducted a series of reconciliation seminars in Eastern Slavonia with 120 Croat and Serb gymnasium students from Vukovar, Osijek and Vinkovci.

For most of them it was the first time they left “their” town and met “the other side.” Various techniques such as fish bowl, role play, groups discussions and brainstorming were used. The students got to know each other and exchanged views, made friends and sang songs. They cried when anyone who so wanted told about the hurt and pain and what he or she had experienced during the war; they did so with statements like “I experienced, in my family…” and not with statement like “you did this to us…”

They did a brainstorm and produced fascinating ideas and visions about a peaceful Croatia, Eastern Slavonia and Vukovar. They unanimously told us that many more ought to participate in seminars like this: parents, politicians, journalists as well as hardliners, war profiteers and people with little education, as some of them said.

“It took Croat and Serb students less than an hour to find out that they have a lot in common, [Read more…]

Conflict and reconciliation in the schools of Eastern Slavonia

The UN is needed there in the future

By Jan Oberg

November 27, 1997

TFF PressInfo 29

Summary

A United Nations mission consisting of Civil Affairs and Civil Police should remain in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium in the Republic of Croatia, after its mandate expires on January 15. UNTAES, the present mission, has achieved impressive results within its very short period of work.

However, vital work remains to be done to provide psychological security, reconciliation and the provision of socio-economic development and equal rights and opportunities for all citizens.

The OSCE, UN as well as international and local NGOs should now give priority to the psycho-social aspects of re-integration. Otherwise many Serbs may leave and Croats not return. If so, the UN and the Croatian government will have failed and we shall witness yet another refugee catastrophe in the Balkans.

UNTAES had asked TFF to analyse and help mitigate conflicts in the school sector of the region.

We conclude that there are still serious problems concerning minority rights, democracy and participation, language and biased textbooks, teachers’ security and overall psychological well-being. More funds are also needed for reconstruction and employment-creation to secure the desired two-way return of Croats and Serbs to where they lived before the war.

There are very few signs of forgiveness. There is a serious feeling of frustration, insecurity and hurt amongst Serb teachers, students and their parents that needs urgently to be addressed. Even young Serbs who are Croatian citizens and want to stay are highly uncertain about their future.

These problems are not insoluble if future missions focus clearly on the human dimensions of reconciliation and long-term community- and peacebuilding and their staff be selected accordingly.

Below we have listed the problems and suggest some initiatives that we think will be helpful. [Read more…]