Serbia – Past and future

By Johan Galtung

February 15, 2010

In Belgrade: The NATO attack May-June 1999 left scars still not healed, like the bombed out Ministry of the Interior (Israelis want to invest in a hotel at that site).  But the place is as vibrant with culture and restaurants-cafes and intellectualisms of all kinds as ever.  An enviable resilience.  Orthodox optimism?

Processing the past is not easy.  This authors’s summary of Serbian history adds up to three words: defeat, retreat, return.  There is the Abrahamic idea of Chosen People with a Promised Land from Genesis, focused on today’s Kosovo-Kosova. Hypothesis: whatever else happens, there will be some kind of return.  To put this author’s cards on the table I see only one relatively stable equilibrium not maintained by violence and the threat thereof (1):

• an independent Kosova in the name of self-determination,
• with a Swiss type constitution and a flexible number of cantons,
• maybe three Serbian cantons in the North and close to Pristina,
• each canton governed in that nation’s idiom as a federation,
• with open borders to the key motherlands Serbia and Albania, and
• those three countries woven together in a confederation.

The present “independence” – using a Finn as an instrument for US-Western goals and based on three points is of course not sustainable: [Read more…]

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The Kosovo Solution series

Broad framework, many roads

By Jan Oberg & Aleksandar Mitic

Published March 2005

 

Table of content

# 1   Why the solution in Kosovo matters to the world

Executive summary

# 2   The media – strategic considerations

# 3   The main preconditions for a sustainable solution of the Kosovo conflicts

# 4   The situation as seen from Serbia

# 5   The arguments for quick and total independence  are not credible

# 6   What must be Belgrade’s minimum conditions and its media strategy

# 7   Nations and states, sovereignty and self-determination

# 8   Positive scenarios: Turn to the future, look at the broader perspectives

# 9   Many models for Kosovo

# 10  Summary: From “Only one solution” towards democracy and peace

About the authors

[Read more…]

The UN in Kosovo praises potential war criminal – why?

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 208 – March 10, 2005

Originally published here.

Danish diplomat, Søren Jessen-Petersen is the highest authority in Kosovo and SRSG, Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, there. In spite of that, his unconditional embrace of Mr. Ramush Haradinaj, a former leader of the illegal Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and former prime minister in the non-independent Kosovo and now indicted for war crimes by the Hague Tribunal seems to raise no eyebrows in any capital, media or at the UN in New York.

All relevant links here. See also the TFF Kosovo Solution Series beginning here.

 

Mr. Søren Jessen-Petersen’s embrace of Haradinaj

In a statement on Haradinaj’s resignation Jessen-Petersen praises him for his “dynamic leadership, strong commitment and vision” and says that thanks to that “Kosovo is today closer than ever before to achieving its aspirations in settling its future status.” He calls him his “close partner and friend.” In spite of the fact that the Prime Minister had no choice but to voluntarily go to the Hague, Kofi Annan’s representative praises him for the “dignity and maturity” he has shown in deciding to do so. He also expresses his understanding of the “shock and anger” the people of Kosovo must feel at this development, “people” meaning of course only the Albanians and hardly the Serbs, Romas and other minorities living there.

Søren Jessen-Petersen continues [Read more…]

It’s time to prepare reconciliation between Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 141 – December 21, 2001

Originally published here.

 

This time of the year provides us all with an opportunity to reflect. Reconciliation and forgiveness, peace of mind and compassion come to our minds. We send season’s greetings to each other and express hopes for a better new year.

The latest PressInfos and this one circle around these issues in a concrete manner, applied to a concrete case. That is important in itself. But by focusing on the Balkans we also want to make the point that there are other problems than the September 11 terror that merit attention. That is, if we embrace all of humanity in our compassionate thoughts and deeds and not just the few.
It has gone unnoticed that non-violence proved stronger than police repression and authoritarian rule in Serbia and stronger than extremist violence by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK) in Kosovo.

Milosevic went the militant, repressive way. He finally lost when citizens and police stopped supporting and obeying him in last year’s “October Revolution.” Extremist KLA/UCK chose weapons to “liberate” Kosovo, but since they entered politics they have failed to gain the support of the majority of citizens ever since.

The international community, comprised of a few European countries, NATO and the U.S., decided to use violence after having lost a decade of mitigation and negotiation opportunities. It has used diplomatic isolation, caused suffering among millions due to economic sanctions (mass violence), it bombed Yugoslavia and made it even more difficult for the opposition to topple Milosevic.

The U.S., in particular, destabilised Macedonia by formal and under cover introduction of violence into the domestic conflict of that country; Macedonia is now further from peaceful co-existence between Macedonians and Albanians than at any time since its independence. [Read more…]

Conflict in and around Kosovo – and some resolution proposals

By Johan Galtung

Written 2001

The present illegal NATO war on Serbia is not conducive to any lasting solution. The only road passes through negotiation, not diktat and, pending that, immediate cessation of the hostilities and atrocities, and agreement on a massive UN peacekeeping operation.

For a political solution consider the points made by former UN Secretary General Pérez de Cuéllar in his correspondence with former German Minister of Foreign Affairs Hans Dietrich Genscher December 1991:

“Do not favor any party, develop a plan for all of ex-Yugoslavia, make sure that plans are acceptable to minorities”.

In this spirit TRANSCEND suggests: [Read more…]

Misguided motives led to the chaos in Kosovo

By Jan Oberg

April 5, 2000 – on CNN Interactive

(CNN) — The conflicts that led to war and dissolution of the former Yugoslavia took shape in the 1970s and early 1980s, and their origins are much older. The paradox is that the international community’s self-appointed “conflict managers” have not treated the Balkan conflicts as conflicts.

Instead, they have wielded power and practiced Realpolitik disguised as peacemaking and humanitarianism.

The international community — a euphemism for a handful of top leaders – has historically been an integral party to the conflicts, not an impartial mediator. A policy of disinterested conflict analysis, mediation and conflict resolution would require different analyses, means and institutions (with just a minimum of training).

The leaders of the republics of the former Yugoslavia all did their best to destroy the federation from within. Today’s situation, however, is equally the result of the international community’s failed conflict management in four cases – Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo.

None of the peace agreements work as expected. The regions are more polarized and ethnically cleansed than before. Democracy is formal and imposed, not genuine. The countries are not armed simply for defense, they are militarized.

War criminals are still at large. Refugees have not returned in any significant numbers (except to Kosovo). The deeply human dimensions of tolerance, forgiveness, reconciliation and societal regeneration have hardly begun. No commissions on truth or history have been established.

Money – always plentiful for military purposes – is conspicuously lacking for the prevention of civilian violence and for postwar development. Integration into the EU may not take place for a long time yet.

Finally, and fatally, the U.N. missions to these countries have been thrown out, substituted with more expensive and heavy-handed missions, or discontinued prematurely.  [Read more…]

The West and conflicts in and around Yugoslavia: Some axioms

By Johan Galtung

Presumably written in 2000

[1]  Europe is divided since 1054 (forerunner 395) and 1095 into three parts: Roman-Germanic/Catholic-Protestant (+USA = the West); Slavic-Orthodox and Turko-Muslim.  Romania, Greece: ambiguous.

General archetype: Slavic/Orthodox, and Turko/Muslim, are evil.

[2]  Faultlines intersect in Sarajevo/BiH; cut Pristina/Skopje.

[3]  Parties are nations with claims on land with dualism of discourses as bondage versus independence.  Living together only under foreign rule (Habsburg/Ottoman; Nazi; Tito; NATO).  [Read more…]

Misleading UN Report on Kosovo (B)

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 78 – October 3, 1999

Originally published here.

 

“The UN and NATO missions in Kosovo violate Security Council Resolution 1244 which clearly guarantees the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). The Security Council has just reaffirmed that Kosovo is a part of FRY. 1244 also demands the full cooperation of FRY in implementing the missions tasks. All this is pure pretence, as any visitor to Kosovo will learn – and mission members will tell you privately.

The Report of the Secretary-General (S/1999/987 of September 16) does not even bother to mention whether KFOR/UNMIK cooperates with Belgrade! It seems pretty clear, rather, that the international community has fooled Belgrade and considers it so weak that it doesn’t even have to be polite or give the world the impression that it respects the country’s sovereignty. This coincides with credible press analyses that the U.S. decision makers think Kosovo must become independent.

The international presence of UNMIK and NATO in Kosovo base itself on the bombing campaign the legality of which remains highly disputable. In its day-to-day operations, this presence amounts to a de facto occupation force that co-operates with Albania military and civilian leaders who have perpetrated gross human rights violations,” says Jan Oberg upon his return from Pristina, Skopje and Belgrade, TFF’s 37 mission to the region.

Here follow some facts:

“The missions have set up border points to Serbia but until recently not to Macedonia and Albania. Public and state property is ‘taken over’ by the UN and KFOR, no legal regulations done or rent or compensation paid to the Yugoslav state. Visa is not needed to enter Kosovo. The German Mark is introduced and the Yugoslav dinar disappearing. Tax and customs are now collected to the benefit of Kosovo, with no proportion going to Serbia or Yugoslavia. A new army-like “Kosovo Protection/Defence Force” is established and has the old KLA commander at its head.

Should we be surprised if the mineral resources and the Trpca mining industry complex in Mitrovica is soon ‘taken over’ by foreign capital? Dr. Kouchner serves at the moment as a one-man legislature: he can overrule any federal law and he promulgates legally binding “regulations” by the day.

Resolution 1244 stipulates that ‘after the withdrawal an agreed number of Yugoslav and Serb military and police personnel will be permitted to return to Kosovo to perform functions’ such as liaising with the international civil and military missions, marking and clearing mine fields, maintaining a presence at Serb patrimonial sites and maintain a presence at key border crossings (specified in Annex 2). Reference to all this is conveniently omitted in the UN Report – that serves to evaluate the UN mission and is written, we must assume, by the UN staff in Pristina itself.

So much for the United Nations manifest, gross violation of FRY’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. One understands why all this goes unmentioned in the Report. I am not a lawyer, but it looks to me as a new sort of international lawlessness and might-makes-right,” says Jan Oberg. [Read more…]

Covering up NATO’s Balkan Bombing Blunder

Av Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 61 – April 14, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“Western leaders are busy re-writing history to justify their Balkan bombing blunder. The change in information, rhetoric and explanations since the bombings started on March 24 is literally mind-boggling. Most likely they fear they have opened a very dark chapter in history and may be losing the plot.

One way to make failure look like success is to construct a powerful media reality and de-construct real reality. That’s the essence of media warfare and that’s what happens now,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

“For instance, you must have noticed that the The Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA or UCK, which existed some weeks ago and allegedly participated in Rambouillet now suddenly never existed. The 13-months war in Kosovo/a also conveniently has been expurgated.

The last few days President Clinton, prime minister Blair, NATO General Wesley Clark, foreign secretary Cook, foreign minister Fischer, secretary Albright, defence minister Robertson and other Western leaders have explained to the world why NATO bombs Yugoslavia. They made no mention of KLA or the war. Their speeches are surprisingly uniform. Their main points are:

• We have evidence that Yugoslavia, i.e.President Milosevic had a plan to ethnically cleanse Kosovo/a of all Albanians.

• One proof of this plan is that some 700.000 have been driven over the borders; it would have been many more, if not all 2 million Albanians, had NATO not taken action. [Read more…]

Interview With Jan Oberg in Kosovo-Albanian “ZËRI” in Pristina by Blerim Shala

By Jan Oberg
December 22, 1998

1. DR. OBERG, HOW DO YOU EVALUATE THE PRESENT SITUATION IN KOSOVA, ESPECIALLY REGARDING THE OSCE OBSERVER MISSION WHICH IS SUPPOSED TO BE ESTABLISHED IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS?

Compared with one or five years ago, the present situation is worse for all parties. Innocent civilians – about 10% of the Kosovo-Albanians and 10% of the Kosovo-Serbs – have lost their home, belongings, human rights and safety. No politician ever asked them and I am sure they did not want this to achieve any political goal. Second, Serbia/FRY has lost important parts of its control and sovereignty and it has more international interference than ever – what all Serbia was directed out to vote against just a few months ago.

And the Albanians in Kosovo are worse off too – they no longer obtain the sympathy, solidarity and admiration for their nonviolent policies from the world community. Some may value that as irrelevant anyhow, I don’t. With blood on their hands, the political goals and the vision of a independent, peaceful and democratic Kosova is gone. You can’t obtain a good thing by bad means: killing, maiming and terrorising those who disagree with you, also on your own side. No election or referendum was ever held that, directly or indirectly, gave KLA/UCK a mandate to militarize the issue.

Some here will say: “But we had two!” I understand this psychological mechanism, given the politically unwise and untalented policy of repression by Belgrade. But here I want to point out what, in all humility, I consider the “Himalayan mistake” of some Kosovo-Albanians: they believed that the alternative to Dr. Rugova’s somewhat passive and practical policy of nonviolence was armed struggle, killing and all that. The real alternative would have been active and principled nonviolence and training the whole people in this different way of thinking and struggling.

In short: it would have been good if someone in power on either side had read and understood the deep messages of Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or Dalai Lama – if someone among all your good intellectuals had learned from the nonviolent victories of the European peace movements and Soviet dissidents who, together with Mikhail Gorbachev, dismantled the whole Cold War structure; or had learnt from the Solidarnosc movement in Poland and the Velvet Revolution in Chechoslovakia, from the resistance movement against the Shah of Iran, from the Catholic nuns who lay down in from of Marcos’ tanks in the Philippines etc.

Modern history is full of conflicts at least as bad as that in Kosovo that have been overcome by nonviolence. But – all these issues were never studied, people never educated and trained in nonviolent politics, ethics and methods of struggle. Your alternative schools never trained pupils in thinking this way. So, the shortsighted militarists took the lead. That’s why pragmatic nonviolence of Rugova/LDK was never enough – and was tainted by wishig all the time that the US/NATO should come and do the dirty job for them. [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…]

Kosovo/a – Half truths about demography and ethnic cleansing 

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 43

Lund, August 23, 1998

“There are dangerously many half truths and biases in the reporting from Kosovo/a. The generalised media image of the conflict shapes public opinion which in turn threatens to push politicians into action that will have counterproductive effects on the ground,” says Jan Oberg, head of TFF’s Conflict-Mitigation team, upon returning from yet another mission to Belgrade, Prishtina and Skopje.

“The standard media story about Kosovo the last six months goes like this:

‘Kosovo is a province in Serbia inhabited by about 2 million people, 90 per cent of whom are Albanians and 10 per cent Serbs. The dissolution of Tito’s Yugoslavia started in 1989 when Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic repealed the autonomy which the province had enjoyed since 1974. The region is characterised by extreme poverty and systematic human rights violations by Serbian authorities against the Albanians, to the extent that one is justified in calling it a police state or an ‘apartheid’ system. The Serb ‘offensive’ is an attempt by Belgrade to ethnically ‘cleanse’ the province. It looks like a repetition of Bosnia and, thus, something must be done to stop it.’

I have come to believe,” says Oberg, “that this standard media story is based on the KISS Principle – Keep it Simple, Stupid. [Read more…]

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…]

Kosovo – What  Can Still Be Done?

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 35 – March 6, 1998


“Violence closes doors and minds. Good  conflict-resolution opens them. A principled, impartial and  innovative approach is now the only way to prevent a new  tragedy in the Balkans. A limited United Nations presence  could be one element in violence prevention, says TFF  director Jan Oberg. Below you find some examples, developed  by us during our work with the Kosovo conflict since 1991.  We’d be happy to have your comments and your suggestions.”

 “Many things can still be done – but only as long as  there is no, or limited, violence. When violence is stepped  up, opportunities for genuine solutions diminish. Governments and citizen around the world can take impartial  goodwill initiatives, for instance:

A hearing in the United Nations General  Assembly. We need to get the facts on the table,  presented by impartial experts as well as by the parties  themselves; listen actively to them for they have  interesting arguments and question their positions, activities and policies.

Meetings all over Europe with various  groups of Serbs and Albanians to discuss their problems.  Governments and NGOs can provide the funds, the venues and  the facilitators.

Send a high-level international delegation of  “citizens diplomats” to Belgrade and Kosovo and have it  listen and make proposals on the establishment of a permanent dialogue or negotiation process but not on what  the solution should be.

A Non-Violence Pact. Pressure must be  brought to bear on all parties to sign a document in which  they solemnly declare that they will unconditionally refrain  from the use of every kind of violence against human beings  and property as part of their policies. [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…]