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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Human rights in Kosovo/a – Not so simple

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 45 – August 27, 1998

Originally published here.

“To understand a conflict – and, thus, help solve it – we need to know something about at least three things: Attitudes, Behaviour and the root Causes of the conflict. That’s the ABC. Most media simply report on behaviour and ignore the two other dimensions. This is why people in general feel that they don’t understand much of it all, in spite of watching and listening carefully to news reports. And when media cover conflict behaviour, many seem to use the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid. What you have heard about human rights in Kosovo/a is a good example of KISS journalism,” says Jan Oberg, head of TFF’s Conflict-Mitigation team upon returning from yet another mission to Belgrade, Prishtina and Skopje.

“I want to make it clear that I consider the Serb government guilty of extremely serious and systematic human rights violations in the Kosovo province. Over the years, the Serb leadership has pursued an absolutely immoral and self-defeating policy of repression. Having listened to hundreds of personal accounts of human rights violations, I know that. Numerous human rights organisations offer overwhelming documentation.

During our missions, TFF’s team has been stopped repeatedly on the roads, interrogated at police stations for hours, and deprived of written Albanian materials. I have seen the blood on the sidewalk after a young Albanian shot dead close to the Grand Hotel one morning in peacetime Prishtina. And, undoubtedly, when a people is this strong and this united in its desire for freedom, repression of its fundamental rights must be a basic explanation – however not the only one.

This, however, can not explain” – continues Dr. Oberg – “why so many human rights advocates, columnists, experts and diplomats ignore the fact that the rights of all, also the Serbs, are violated in this province. [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: Why it is serious and what not to do

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 34 – March 5, 1998

“The statements and threats by European Union commissioner van den Broek and foreign secretary Robin Cook are imprudent: they focus on the actors, not on the problems. When Benjamin Gilman, chairman of the US House International Relations Committee talks about sanctions, sending “NATO and UN troops” to the region and supports “independent Kosova,” there is even more reason for concern.

They speak the language of power and violence, not of understanding and dialogue. And it is likely to harm the Kosovo-Albanians.

“The tragic truth is that since 1990, neither the United States, the OSCE nor the EU and its members have developed any policies to help the Serbs and Albanians avoid the predictable showdown we now witness in Kosovo.

There is much talk about conflict prevention, early warning, preventive diplomacy and non-military security. The second tragic truth is that there has been very little intellectual innovation since the so-called end of the Cold War. No new organisations have been created, geared to handle the new conflicts. Governments still seem unaware that their diplomats must be trained in conflict understanding and management – as anyone dealing with legal issues must be trained in law. And global media still focus on violence, not on underlying conflicts or possible solutions,” says Dr. Oberg who, during the last six years, has been personally engaged with a TFF team of experts in conflict-mitigation between Serbs and Albanians at government as well as NGO level.

Regrettably recent events in the Kosovo province of Yugoslavia confirm the early warnings by many independent voices, including the TFF since 1992 and, latest, our PressInfo from August 1997:

“The Serbs and Albanians have proved that they themselves are unable to start and sustain a dialogue 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. New thinking should be applied sooner rather than later.”

Following is Dr. Oberg’s assessment of why the Kosovo situation is dangerous: [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…]