Macedonia 2002 – 2003: Assessing the risk of violence

By Jan Oberg

Written in 2001

 

1. Introduction

This report offers a framework and some tools for analysing the conflicts in Macedonia and the larger conflict formation of which it is a part. The purpose of the analysis is to assess the risks of violence and war in the country in the near future and the long-term.

 

1.1 Early warning and preventive initiatives

Early warning studies are meaningful only if combined with early listening and early action. Numerous organisations, among them Amnesty International and the Transnational Foundation, have repeatedly pointed out from the early 1990s that there would be war in Kosovo if no actors in the international community undertook mitigating, mediating and negotiating efforts. In Kosovo, there was minimal early listening and no early action to deal with the conflicts and their resolution. The conflict grew more serious and became militarised; due to the absence of early listening and action, NATO’s bombing in 1999 was promoted as the only solution, in spite of the fact that it caused even more human suffering and did not lead to a sustainable peace in the region a good three years later.

 

1.2 Theory and empirical work – diagnosis, prognosis and therapy

 Nothing is as practical as a good theory. Without thinking about it, we use theories and make assumptions when we drive a car or cook a meal. This report includes bits and pieces of general theory and some concepts to help readers understand this conflict as well as other conflicts. If the analysis increases the understanding of complex conflicts in general and those pertaining to Macedonia in particular, it will have served two of its major purposes. Without comprehensive ‘diagnosis’, we can neither produce a reasonable ‘prognosis’ nor hope to provide adequate ‘treatment’ or ‘therapy.’

A doctor uses knowledge of medicine and theories about the causes and symptoms of diseases and combines that with theories and concepts when examining a patient. In this report, we do much the same; we diagnose a ‘patient’ as suffering from serious conflicts and violence and explore the possibility that the disease may not have been completely cured and may reoccur. We also look into what is required for the patient to recover completely.

Only on the basis of both theory and empirical analysis can we hope to assess the risk of violence and war in complex systems. And only by adding constructive thinking can we hope to prevent violence and help people and societies move towards peace.

 

1.3 Causes of war and causes of peace

One particularly important, underlying assumption throughout this report is [Read more…]

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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…]

Bosnia’s foreign elections – Unwise and dangerous

By Jan Oberg

September 10, 1997

TFF PressInfo 25 originally published here.
“Symbolic or shallow democracy will be the only outcome when foreigners impose elections under extremely adverse circumstances as is the case in Dayton-Bosnia. They could even be dangerous in their consequences because some local results are likely to be implemented by force. One increasingly wonders whether the international community is in Bosnia for the sake of the people living there or to uphold an illusory image of itself as effective post-Cold War conflict-“managers” – says TFF’s director, Jan Oberg who has followed the situation since February 1992 as head of the foundation’s conflict-mitigation team to all parts of former Yugoslavia.

– “The leading Croatian party, the Bosnian branch of President Tudjman’s HDZ in Zagreb, has suggested to its members and voters to boycott the elections. It argues that the conditions for fair and free elections are not in place and complain that international election officials favour Muslims over Croats in disputes about voter registration. And it accuses OSCE of “gerrymandering” in Mostar.

– This emphasises what international media’s non-attention hides but any serious observer knows, namely that the Federation between Muslims and Croats established in March 1994 still belongs to the world of fiction.

– The present situation in Republika Srpska, RS, fulfils all conditions for a coup, outbreak of serious violence or a civil war. I am pretty sure,” predicts Jan Oberg, “that it will fall apart. Indeed, that could well be part of an unwritten longterm “gentlemen’s agreement”. Be this as it may, the power-struggling Serbs offer once again international media and the international authorities in Bosnia a reason to blame Pale for the stalling, crisis-ridden Dayton process. And quite predictably, they now also boycott the elections. So, four days before the elections two of the three largest parties are out, free not to respect election results later.

– The present situation is also caused by the Western governments which did absolutely nothing to support civil society, dissidents, non-nationalists, NGOs and independent media anywhere in ex-Yugoslavia between 1990 and end of 1995. It dealt exclusively with the top political, military and economic echelons [Read more…]

Help Serbs and Albanians settle their differences in Kosovo!

A Civilian U.N. Authority Supported By NGOs for a Negotiated Settlement in Kosovo

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 24

August 1997

“The Serbs and Albanians have proved that they themselves are unable to start and sustain a process towards conflict-resolution and reconciliation. International attempts, lacking analysis as well as strategy, have failed, too. The overall situation has deteriorated and violence is escalating, slowly but surely. It simply cannot go on like that in the future and go well,” says Jan Oberg, director of the Transnational Foundation which has been engaged in the conflict in the Kosovo region of Serbia, Yugoslavia since 1991. “New thinking should be applied sooner rather than later,” he urges.

“With the breakdown in Albania, Serbia has lost the argument – never very credible – that the Kosovars want to unite with Albania. President Milosevic recently visited the region with no new proposals. The pragmatic non-violent policies of the Kosovar leadership is being undermined. The Kosovars have failed to prove that Serbs as people are their friends, for instance when they protested the temporary settlement of refugee Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia in Kosovo.

With its anti-Serbian diagnosis of ex-Yugoslavia’s conflicts, the international “community” in general and the United States – both under president George Bush and Bill Clinton – in particular gave the Kosovars reason to believe that an independent state was around the corner. [Read more…]

Brcko Arbitration Is No Solution

By Jan Oberg

February 7, 1997

TFF PressInfo 20 originally published here

“The future of the Brcko area was the only one not settled in Dayton. Thus, it was either the most difficult of all, or the United States and the parties agreed that it would be better to have their decision concerning that hot spot appear as binding arbitration. The arbitration decision is expected by mid-February.

But any solution will antagonise at least one of the groups in the Brcko area, the entities or neighbouring republics,” says Jan Øberg, director of the TFF who recently returned from the TFF’s 24th mission to ex-Yugoslavia, including a fact-finding visit to Brcko. “The Dayton Agreement created a conflict by not defining the area under arbitration, and it will create more now,” he adds.

“The three options usually mentioned – give it to the Federation, give it to Republika Srpska, or make it an area under international military control – are zero-sum games and care only for the interests of elites. A viable solution must must be based on the needs of people who lived and are living in that area.

Fateful decisions on complex issues in hot spots should come as a result of confidence-building and prior reconciliation, not its prod. Like all other civil, political problems dealt with in Dayton, this one was rushed and its timeframe completely unrealistic. It would have been wiser to have waited 2-3 years so a positive sum game had a chance to emerge in the Brcko area. [Read more…]