Rambouillet: A process analysis

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 54 – February 21, 1999

Originally published here.

 

“The Plan being discussed at Rambouillet is a formalistic, legal document. Its provisions may be needed, but it doesn’t contain any ideas on how to make peace among the citizens who are to live with it when implemented. Their voice is not heard, their needs are not dealt with in the Plan. Most of the delegates in Rambouillet are not representative of the citizens. The “mediators” have no professional education as mediators. The idea that Kosovo’s problems can be solved in two weeks is absurd. Rambouillet militates against all we know about human psychology and trust-building.

So, once again politics fool media and media fool world public opinion. And people in Kosovo will have to wait for peace as long as the vagabonds in Beckett’s drama wait for Godot…” says Dr. Jan Oberg upon returning from TFF’s 34th mission to ex-Yugoslavia, this time to Skopje, Belgrade and the troubled Kosovo province.

 

1. The preparation

When wars are fought thousands of trained soldiers are mobilised, highly trained experts and sophisticated technologies activated. When peace is to be created, the world lets one man – in the case of Kosovo, US ambassador Christopher Hill with a few assistants – shuttle back and forth between some of the parties. When Yugoslavia insisted on Kosovo being an integral part of its territory and the Albanians insisted that it is their independent state, ambassador Hill drew a line – not a circle or a ball – and explained to them, not unlike a father to two quarrelling children: “The compromise I allow you is ‘self-government.’ He thought that was fair, that this would be in the interests of the parties. Thus, he and the Contact Group set up the framework for the future of Kosovo’s 1,5 million or so inhabitants and the rest of Yugoslavia, around 10 million people. Nobody ask them how they would like the future to be.

 

2. The process

Perhaps it is all too complex but there are not only the Serbian and Yugoslav governments in Belgrade and the Albanians in Kosovo. Presumably, 15-20% of the people in Kosovo are NOT Albanians. The Kosovo Serbs have not been given an opportunity to voice their independent opinion. Cynically speaking, of course, that doesn’t matter much because nobody, least of all the ‘conflict managers’ in Rambouillet, expect them to stay in areas of Kosovo under ‘self-governing’ Albanian majority rule. No Serbs live in areas now controlled by KLA.

The fatal mistake was to believe that negotiations will create trust. They won’t. It works the other way: some trust-building must happen BEFORE people meet at the negotiation table.

 

3. The threats

All this – predictably – did not work. The Contact group then issued ultimatums and put NATO’s prestige at stake: Come to Rambouillet, sign our document, or face air-strikes. Air-strikes! ? [Read more…]