The West is in moral trouble if there is an ethnic cleansing plan – and if there isn’t

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 64 – April 25, 1999

Originally published here.

 

“We are told there the West knew already last autumn that President Milosevic had a plan to ethnically cleanse all Albanians from the Kosovo province. However, while it is true that Yugoslav forces have exploited NATO’s bombing campaign to drive out Albanians in a way and to an extent that must be morally condemned, the unproved allegation that there existed a plan tells more about NATO than about President Milosevic – and what it tells is not to the advantage of the former,” says TFF director Jan Oberg. 

“The disgusting expulsion of Albanians from Kosovo can’t be defended. The Yugoslav authorities who carries it out or lets individuals do it, can not defend such human rights violations with reference to NATO’ bombing. Sure, Serbs will see NATO’s destruction of Yugoslavia as work commissioned by Kosovo-Albanians/UCK, but it is anyhow up to Yugoslavia to fight NATO, not to take revenge against those who are innocent civilians.

Having said that, NATO and the West can not be trusted when it seeks to legitimise its Balkan bombing blunder by insisting that it has “evidence” of an ethnic cleansing plan but has still not provided the slightest evidence. Here are some reasons why this is utterly irresponsible and, thus, undermines NATO credibility – and the credibility of a free press that does not ask more critical questions:

First of all, we never heard anybody talk about such a plan before NATO’s bombs started falling. Second, the argument for bombing was related to whether or not Yugoslavia would sign the Rambouillet Dictate. We never heard anybody saying that NATO would bomb Yugoslavia should they carry out an ethnic cleansing plan.

Third, if such a plan was known already during autumn, how could the West invite representatives of a killer regime to Paris? How could the US send ambassador Richard Holbrooke to Belgrade to try to make a last-minute deal with such ‘a serial cleanser’ President?

Fourth – and worst, perhaps of all – if the West knew of such a plan why did it do absolutely NOTHING to plan for the humanitarian emergency it would cause? Why did the West/NATO not actively threaten to prevent it OR initiate bombings much earlier? Isn’t it simply too immoral to know about such a plan and do nothing?

Fifth, if Milosevic, Serbia or Yugoslavia wanted to get rid of all Albanians, why did they choose this particularly awkward moment [Read more…]

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Read the military Kosovo Rambouillet agreement !

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 58 – March 18, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“The military provisions in the Kosovo Agreement on the table in Paris has nothing to do with peacekeeping. Neither the civilian nor the military provisions will help bring about peace among Serbs and Albanians. It will further antagonize the 10 million citizens of Yugoslavia and the international community. There is simply nothing in it for the Yugoslavs and that’s why I am deeply afraid that we are likely to see something very bad happen very soon. This whole affair has nothing to do with violence prevention, the appropriate term would be: peace-prevention.

Leading media, commentators, scholars and diplomats join in condemning the Yugoslav side in the Paris talks on Kosovo and thus legitimate subsequent NATO bombing and de facto NATO control over the territory. Who can be so ungrateful, stubborn or scoundrelly to refuse an offer of peace? However, no one asks: what does the Kosovo Agreement in Paris, the “peace” plan, actually contain?

I don’t think this is necessarily deliberate,” says Dr. Jan Oberg, head of TFF’s conflict-mitigation team in ex-Yugoslavia since 1991. “Rather, it proves that professional knowledge about conflict-resolution, negotiation, mediation and peace politics in general is virtually non-existing in the international discourse and media.

When someone presents an economic plan, economists can discuss its pros and cons. When a document is presented as a “peace” plan, everyone takes it for granted as such without even asking: What’s in it? What are the weak and the strong aspects? Why seems one side to say yes and the other no? Will its implementation help the parties to live in peace? What kind of peace, if any?

I have studied the early versions of the Agreement and the version of February 23. The document has undergone remarkable changes over time. My hypothesis is simple: this document has been adapted to be acceptable to the Albanian delegates to such an extent that the Yugoslav side – ready to accept the political parts at an earlier stage – now find the changed document unacceptable both in terms of political and military aspects. Why this change? Because worst case for the international community would be Yugoslavia saying yes and the Albanians saying no.

Did your media tell you that the document does not even mention KLA, the Kosovo (Albanian) Liberation Army? It it called “Other Forces” throughout the Agreement. You may wonder how parties can be held accountable if they are not mentioned by name or actor in the document. Worse, could it be that there is a KLA, or a fraction of it, that is not represented at Paris and will NOT feel bound by this document?”

Jan Oberg is puzzled: “As you will see below, the text gives plenty of arguments for FRY President Milosevic to say no thanks, [Read more…]

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…]

Rambouillet: Imperialism in disguise

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 55 – February 16, 1999

Originally published here.

“What happens now in Rambouillet has little to do with creating peace for the suffering citizens in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo/a. Disguised as “negotiations” about a “peace” plan, the international so-called community promotes less noble values and long-term goals in the region and use the Serbs and Albanians as supernumeraries in its drama. It’s time we ask what the self-proclaimed “conflict managers” are actually up to. If peace in Kosovo or the wider Balkans had been the real aim, we would have witnessed a completely different approach leading up to Rambouillet. We come closer to the truth about Rambouillet if we use words such as globalisation, strategic expansion, Caspian oil, Greater NATO, containment policy and imperialism disguised as conflict-management and peace-making,” says Dr. Jan Oberg upon returning from the 34th TFF mission to the region since 1992, this time to Skopje, Belgrade and Kosovo.

“If peace was their profession, the governments of the international community would – around 1992 – have put enough diplomatic and other civilian pressure on the parties to begin a dialogue, not negotiations. It would have provided 5-10 different secluded meeting places for Albanians, Serbs and other peoples – NGOs, teachers, intellectuals, journalists, doctors etc. – to explore their problems and possible solutions. In short, an international brainstorm to produce creative ideas for later elaboration at a complex negotiation process that would take at least a year.

Today, instead, we are left with only one – legalistic and formal – plan developed by U.S. ambassador Christopher Hill. It is not the result of neutral mediation, contains no creative ideas and is so unattractive to the parties that it has to be imposed as a fait accompli by bombing threats and by arrogant talking down to the delegations (“they must be brought to understand their own best..”) [Read more…]