Kosovo/a independent? Perhaps, but what matters is how

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 106 – December 4, 2000

Originally published here.

 

The main proposal in the independent international Kosovo Commission’s report is that Kosovo should be given conditional independence. This PressInfo deals with this proposal and a few other aspects of the report.

 

THE FIRST PARAGRAPH

The very first paragraph of the report’s executive statement states: “The origins of the crisis have to be understood in terms of a new wave of nationalism that led to the rise of Milosevic and the official adoption of an extreme Serbian nationalist agenda. The revocation of Kosovo’s autonomy in 1989 was followed by a Belgrade policy aimed at changing the ethnic composition of Kosovo and creating an apartheid-like society.”

Here are some simple counter arguments: a) nationalism alone certainly can not explain the conflicts in the region; b) not only the Serbs used nationalism, so did Bosnian Muslim, Croats, Macedonians, Slovenes and Albanians at the time; c) it indicates a poor understanding of Milosevic to say that he was a nationalist; he sold out Serbs and the Serbian ’cause’ repeatedly in order to remain in or increase his personal power; d) there was no official adoption of nationalism; e) Kosovo’s autonomy was not revoked, it was sharply reduced and, for sure, it was done in an offending, authoritarian way; f) there is no evidence that there was an official policy in Belgrade with the aim of changing the ethnic composition of the Kosovo province, but there was a worry over the fact that over the preceding 30 years the Serb proportion of the province’s population had fallen from about 30% to 9%.

 

APARTHEID – REALLY?

The reference to apartheid is misleading. According to Encyclopædia Britannica, apartheid is “(Afrikaans: ‘apartness’) name given by the Afrikaner National Party, in office in Africa since 1948, to the policies that govern relations between the country’s 3,800.000 white inhabitants and its 17,700,000 non-white, mainly black African, inhabitants. It is also used to describe the long-term objective of the territorial separation that is advocated by Afrikaner church and intellectual circles.” Other characteristics of apartheid are mentioned: complete domination of the white minority over the black majority; black Africans were allowed to own land only within the 13 per cent of the territory which were designated native reserves; sexual and marriage relations between blacks and whites illegal; nonwhites were denied the right to vote; and all black Africans were required to obtain a permission before they could enter and remain in urban areas. (15th edition, Vol 1, p 439).

There was nothing even “apartheid-like” in Kosovo. Indeed, its status as autonomous since 1974 speaks against this. It has not been a question of race relations or based on colour, it was not a minority dominating a majority as Kosovo was part of Serbia and of former Yugoslavia in both of which Serbs were the largest nation; Kosovo-Albanians could vote (but boycotted elections), and they were not forced to seek permission to leave reserves. What is true, however, is that Albanian radicals would use the term “apartheid” in conversations with foreign visitors, either as part of their liberation vocabulary or in perfectly understandable despair over their situation. But for the Commission &endash; chaired by South African judge, Richard Goldstone – to make the above statement its basic framework gives reason for concern.

 

THE HISTORY OF INDEPENDENCE

And now to the issue of independent Kosova. [Read more…]

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Intellectually the Kosovo Commission Report is a turkey and it won’t fly

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 105 – November 23, 2000

Originally published here.

 

We expect soldiers we send to the front to have some military education and training. As patients we hope the doctor has studied medicine. And who would write a constitution for a new state if not professionally educated lawyers?

But not so when it comes to conflict-analysis, mediation or peace-making. In this field it seems that neither specific education, practical experience nor knowledge about the conflicting parties and their cultures is of any importance. The important thing is that you want to do good.

Last year, Prime Minister Goran Persson of Sweden took the initiative to establish an independent international commission tasked with analysing the equally enigmatic and tragic Kosovo conflict and NATO’s bombing as well as outline the lessons to be learnt. He appointed Richard Goldstone, the well-respected South African judge and former chief prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal to chair it together with former Swedish education minister, Carl Tham, as his deputy.

The Swedish government allocated about 1 million dollar for the one-year work of the commission, which also obtained support from the Carnegie Corporation, George Soros, Ford Foundation and the U.S. Institute of Peace. Among its members are Mary Kaldor, Michael Ignatieff, Richard Falk (TFF associate) who represent themselves and not their countries – of which anyhow six are NATO members.

No doubt, it was a noble initiative, with all wishing to do good – although even Sweden never expressed a critical word about the West’s handling of the crisis or of what, at the time, I called NATO’s Balkan bombing blunder. To identify what we must learn from this conflict and the international attempts to handle it is, beyond doubt, one of the most important intellectual, political and moral tasks – for Sweden itself, for the EU, for NATO and for the United States. The problems that caused the violence in the Balkans are far from solved – if at all addressed – and the place with most rapid and positive change today is Serbia whose people took matters in their own hand and put an end to the Milosevic era. Around the world, conflicts similar to that in Kosovo are queuing up, waiting to be diagnosed and treated well or turn into tragedies.

My TFF colleagues and I have, since 1991, worked in Kosovo and Belgrade, with the political leaders on all sides and with civil society organisations. After some 40 missions and 3000+ interviews, we know a bit about the place, the personalities and the problems as well as about the rest of former Yugoslavia with which the Kosovo issue was and remains fundamentally intertwined.

During a number of years I personally functioned as unpaid, goodwill adviser to Dr. Ibrahim Rugova. Under his wise leadership the Kosovo-Albanians was the only people in ex-Yugoslavia who had decided – in contrast to everybody else – to try to achieve their dream about an independent state by means of a) a non-violent struggle, b) the building of a parallel society and c) intensive international diplomatic and media activity. It was a dream, of course, as nationalistic or and exclusionist as any other and was greatly assisted by the bullish arrogance of Milosevic and the repressive forces in the region.

But a simple conflict is about the only thing it was not. So the Commission has ploughed through hundreds of human rights documents and other types of materials and consulted hundreds of experts, politicians and military people involved in the matter – although, however, surprisingly few among those who were close to issue, on the ground. Goldstone and Tham want to do good, for sure, but none of them are conflict analysts or Balkan experts. That could, with a different mandate and more creativity, actually have brought in new aspects or have lead to the creation of more innovative proposals. But it doesn’t. This turkey won’t fly.

One the positive side, [Read more…]