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…]

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The Kosovo War: No failure, all had an interest in it

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 42 – August 17, 1998

Originally published here

“Look at what happens in Kosovo and you would like to believe that all good powers worked for PREVENTION of this tragedy but that, unfortunately, tragedies happen. Governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations are already overloaded with ongoing conflicts and catastrophes; budgets are tight etc. Admittedly these are very complex problems; and just as all diseases cannot be prevented, we can’t expect all wars to be prevented.

According to this theory, if things go wrong it is the parties’ fault and if they go well it is thanks to the international community and a few shuttling envoys or diplomats. World media naively corroborate this theory: We watch how diplomats, envoys, and delegations fly around, hold press conferences, meet their kin in palaces or make solemn declarations if they don’t issue threats. In short, do all they can to stop wars and force people to negotiation tables, don’t they?

Well, no outbreak of violence on earth was more predictable than the one in Kosovo. There have been more early warnings about this conflict than about any other, but there was no early listening and no early action. There was neither the required conflict-management competence nor political will to prevent it.

We live in an increasingly interdependent world; we are told that hardly anything belongs to the internal affairs of states. The other side of that coin is that Kosovo was and is our problem. If we believe in this theory we must ask: when will honest people, including politicians, begin to openly and self-critically discuss why they fail again and again to avert even the most predictable wars? Is it human folly, institutional immaturity, are diplomats just not appropriately trained in violence prevention and conflict-resolution, or what?

I am afraid there is another more accurate but less pleasant explanation,” says TFF director Jan Oberg after his recent mission to Belgrade, Prishtina and Skopje where he had more than 50 conversations with heads of states, party leaders, intellectuals, media people and NGOs.

“This other explanation is less apologetic, more cynical. It simply assumes that things like Kosovo happen because it is in the interest of powerful actors that it happens. [Read more…]

From mistakes toward an end of the war in Bosnia?

By Johan Galtung

February 1995

Of the many mistakes made by the EU, the U.S. and the UN (Security Council) a major mistake was the recognition of BH as a country member of the UN within the administrative borders of the Bosnia-Hercegovina (BiH) of former Yugoslavia.  As Kissinger said, this was a “country” in which 52%  (the percentage can be discussed) of the inhabitants did not want to live.

But since this mistake was committed by the Holy Trinity of EU/US/SC to admit a mistake is almost impossible.  The doctrine became sacred, like Vatican doctrines.

So when the Contact Group, adding Russia to three EU members and the U.S., came up with its peace plan last July, the only question discussed was the internal division, and in highly unrealistic terms as if there were only two parties in BH, with a 51-49% formula.

In addition there was also the old idea that all problems derive from Serb, meaning Beograd, aggression, seeing the conflict as Beograd against the rest. Serbs were Serbs, socialist or tchetnik, Beograd or Pale; and the same for the Croats. They never understood the old and new tensions between Beograd and Zagreb, and Serbs and Croats in BH.

However, the conflict, and indeed the war in BiH, is over self-determination for the Bosnian Serbs (and, possibly, for the Croats). [Read more…]