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…]

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Ibrahim Rugova’s decade-long leadership in Kosovo

By Jan Oberg

TFF Pressinfo 140 – December 14, 2001

Originally published here.

 

Ten years ago it was not impossible to see…

Ten years ago, TFF’s conflict-mitigation team started working with Dr. Ibrahim Rugova and LDK people in the belief that a) they were the best dialogue partners Belgrade could hope to get, and b) they were the only political leadership in ex-Yugoslavia that advocated non-violence, albeit pragmatic. I have no evidence that they have ever read a line by, say, Gandhi.

We participated in formulating characteristics of the independent Kosova they aimed at: it should be a region with no military, open border to all sides and politically neutral. We helped devise negotiation strategies and facilitated the only written dialogue between them and governments in Belgrade between 1992 and 1996. The foundation produced a concrete plan for a negotiated solution. See Preventing war in Kosovo (1992) and UNTANS (1996).

Our team quickly learned to respect the complexity and difficulties of the Kosovo conflict. We were privileged to repeatedly listen to the deep-held views and animosities among various Albanians, Serbs and other ethnic groups in Kosovo as well as to many and different parties in Belgrade. We knew that the international community played with fire by not attending to this conflict and tried to alert it.

This shaped the basis for our later scepticism about the faked ‘negotiations’ in Rambouillet and NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia including Kosovo. A committed, impartial and competent international civil-political intervention could have mitigated the conflict in the early 1990s. And even if this opportunity was missed, bombings would not produce peace, trust, tolerance, reconciliation or a willingness to live and work together.

 

The West chose Kosovo’s militants as allies instead

Already ten years ago, Dr. Rugova was the undisputed leader of the Kosovo-Albanians. He received a lot of lip-service during missions to Western capitals. Reality was that Western governments in typical ‘covert operations’ from 1992-93 helped create, equip and train hard-liners behind his back, who became the later Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA or UCK. Dr. Rugova was marginalised and the U.S. in particular played with the KLA, which at the time was officially categorised by U.S. diplomats as “a terrorist organisation.” Later on, NATO performed the role of KLA’s airforce and the civilian UN mission (UNMIK) and the military KFOR-NATO missions were set up.

These missions officially declared UCK disbanded and illegal but let it continue operating partly as UCK/KLA and partly as the civilian Kosovo Protection Corps, KPC. The internationals consistently kept on allying themselves more with the leaders of the KLA, (Hacim Thaci, for instance) and KPC (Agim Ceku,for instance) whilst de facto accepting the illegal violence and mafia-based power structure established by them immediately after the war throughout the province.

In other words, Rugova and LDK were marginalised during the period when a negotiated solution could have been found, then during the Rambouillet process, then after the bombing and, finally, after the municipal elections when LDK won a landslide victory but did not get proportional backing by the international administration. As the standard response runs among the internationals: “we want to control and democratise the hardliners and keep them in the process, therefore we cannot also antagonise them.” Dr. Kouchner, the former head of the UN mission (UNMIK) was instrumental in institutionalising this cosy Western relationship with warlords and mafia leaders.

Since July 1999, this policy has yielded absolutely no results, except ethnic cleansing, destruction of democratic potentials, more mafia economy and criminality, and two KLA incursions, one into Southern Serbia and one into Macedonia.

 

UNMIK must now stop its vain courting of warlords

In this perspective, Ibrahim Rugova is an extraordinary figure in Balkan politics. [Read more…]

The world needs reconciliation centres

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 76 – August 20, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Crotian version here.

 

“Do you remember Kim, the 9-year old Vietnamese girl, running as she was hit by napalm from U.S. warplanes in 1972? That picture haunted John Plummer for 24 years; he’d been a helicopter pilot and helped organise the napalm raid.

His marriage crashed, he isolated himself and took to drinking; he eventually became a Methodist pastor in Virginia. In 1996, Kim and John met and he says: ‘Kim saw my grief, my pain, my sorrow…She held out her arms to me and embraced me. All I could say was ‘I’m sorry; I’m sorry – over and over again. And at the same time she was saying, ‘It’s all right, I forgive you.’ They are now good friends, and call each other regularly.*

This may be a unique story, but how can we talk about restoring peace after wars’ hurt and harm without paying attention to the human aspects of conflicts in general and that of forgiveness and reconciliation in particular?” asks TFF director Jan Oberg. “I think we need to make forgiveness and reconciliation a central objective: in research and studies, in training and education and, above all, we should empower every civilian and military – and every international organisation engaged in war-torn societies – to work for it with the locals.

“Take a look at Bosnia and Croatia since 1995, look at Kosovo now, or Somalia, or…Have people really held out their arms or said ‘I forgive you’? Come together in trust? Have they learnt how to deal with the past, not in order to forget it or to blame each other, but to acknowledge what happened and find ways to avoid it ever happening again? Can that even be said about South Africa?

It is easy to repair houses and infrastructure, it’s easy to throw money around and talk about human rights? But what if people deep down keep on hating each other and won’t even dream about doing what Kim and John did? Will they themselves ever be happy and at peace with themselves? Will their children? What kind of society will it be if we cannot also, so to speak, repair souls and help create tolerance, co-existence, even cooperation and love?”

Jan Oberg continues, “One of the most moving experiences in my life was when, together with TFF team members, we helped a few Croats and Serbs in Eastern Slavonia, Croatia, come together: young boys and girls as well as the parent generation who were permitted for the first time to talk face-to-face about what had happened – but to stick to facts only and ‘I language’ and avoid blaming. Many cried, successively many laughed together – some now are friends and some do projects together – and, yes, some have left or lost hope again. TFF keeps working there today.

It made me understand how neglected the whole issue of ‘soul reconstruction’ is – and how vain everything else will be without it. You can pour any amount of dollars into Kosovo – it will not create peace unless we also, in deep respect and cooperation with the locals on all side, do something that can not be measured in money terms. [Read more…]