Date: Sun, 14 Feb 1999 12:38:14 -0600 (CST)
From: Freedom Press <>
Subject: (en) Putting Kosovo into Perspective
Article: 54870
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Putting Kosovo into perspective

By Sahuc Michel and the comrades of the FA in Montpellier, Le Monde liberataire, 20 January 1999

The taking over in 1989 of the autonomous province of Kosovo by Belgrade was the first act which called into question the constitutional balance which was bequeathed by Tito. It saw the beginning of the break up of the Ex-Yugoslavia.


This province was integrated into Serbia in 1913 following the Balkan wars and was part of the new Yugoslavian state set up in 1918. During Tito's reign the communist party lacked coherence in its economic policies and enabled the proliferation of a decentralised bureaucracy which managed in an authoritarian fashion the investment funds destined for Kosovo to its own advantage. The repression of social tensions and the economic crisis which began in the 1960s was to feed the growth in nationalism especially among the Albanians in Kosovo. At the time there was considerable repression emanating from Belgrade and they rejected the Balkan Confederation plan. Towards the mid-sixties, showing themselves to be in favour of a decentralising reform programme, the Albanians demanded a status of national community (nardnost) rather than the proposed national minority which was perceived as degrading. In 1974, the new Yugoslav constitution, allowed it to have the status of regional autonomy within the Serbian republic with its own Assembly and government. It was given the right to veto at a federal level and had its own cultural institutions and an Albanian university. After the death of Tito in 1989, the demonstration in Serbia in the previous summer with the theme Kosovo belongs to us and the General Strike of February 1989, Slobodan Milosevic called into question the very status of this province by rescinding many of the areas prerogatives and going so far as to abolish Albanian political institutions in July 1990. In the early years of the 1990s he was to exploit the programme and the theme of Serbian nationalism in order to consolidate his position as leader of his party to which he had given the name socialist. This policy led to the collapse of the Yugoslav Federation with the declarations of Independence by Slovenia and Croatia on the 25th June 1991 followed by the start of the war against Croatia in July. On 15th September it was Macedonia's turn to declare independence and this was followed by Bosnia-Herzegovina after the victory of their nationalist parties in their parliament. From the 6th April 1992 up until the Dayton negotiations in November 1995 the war in Bosnia continued with its atrocities and barbarities. An analysis of this conflict points to the importance of the re-emergence of fascist and nationalist ideologies.


Within this context the Kosovo crisis played itself out in several stages. The result of a clandestine referendum was declared in September 1991 and the Republic of Kosovo was born and recognised by Albania. On 24th May 1992, Ibrahim Rugova from the Kosovo Democratic League (LDK) was elected president after a poll which was declared illegal by Belgrade. In February 1996 a clandestine organisation declared its existence openly—the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA or in Albanian UCK), after claiming a series of bomb attacks. In July 1997 there was a noticeable increase in police violence and the Serbian forces of law and order focused at first on a certain number of family clans and this continued to grow until the offensive of February 1998 and the massacres at Drenica which provoked an exodus of at least 15,000 poor peasants. For the Serbian media these confrontations were caused by the provocative activities of the UCK. With the poll that saw Ibrahim Rugova become president the crisis escalated. His victory after elections which saw a high degree of participation despite Belgrade's declaring them illegal was to lead to new outbreaks of violence. Now it has become clear that Slobodan Milosevic carries the responsibility of having replied with more repression to the machaevellian demands of the democratic and non-violent leadership of the Albanian LDK under Rugova's presidency. In so doing he aggravated the crisis and reinforced the position of the extremists who advocated armed struggle. At the time the UCK could only count on some 200 to 400 fighters but was supported by numerous sympathisers who were ready to join them.

The origin of the crisis remains complex and goes back to demographic aspects which sees the region inhabited by Albanians at a level of 90% and the unease of the Serbian minority who declare themselves to live on historic lands.


Today, the lack of rights given to the provinces favours underground activity under the control of clans who make up a society which is predominantly rural and conservative. The structures which include the LDK can only control this underground by a process of mediation. The Kosovo Republic has significant funds at its disposal. It survives thanks to a voluntary tax which according to a communiqué from the UCK at the end of November 1997 was to help in the struggle for national liberation and this was complemented by money sent by the Albanian diaspora in Germany and Switzerland. After Belgrade had instituted an apartheid policy in 1989/90 the strategy of the LDK was aimed at replacing itself with the Yugoslav confederation which excluded Albanians and deprived them of their rights. Ibrahim Rugova's political strategy combined action, non-violent resistance and as its main objective independence for Kosovo. Since 1997, the main oppositional thrust has come from the party of Adem Damaçi who called for a move from passive non-violence to active non-violence for example by bringing back from exile the parliamentary ministers who were in Geneva and Bonn and who could not return for obvious security reasons. He is the only Albanian leader to proclaim political solidarity with the UCK. But since the massacres of Drenica, he has moved into the background somewhat and did not participate in the elections in March 1998. He is currently waiting on the sidelines.

Mrs Luljeta Pula-Bequiri was the only candidate to oppose Ibrahim Rugova but she chose to withdraw from the elections on the 18th March 1998 and to not allow the Social Democratic Party to participate in the elections of the 22nd March, it is indecent to hold the elections now after the massacre at Drenica. She denounced the power system of the LDK, its complete control of the media and its obscure practices. The call for a boycott by the Demasi, Pula-Bequiri and the students union clearly fell on deaf ears as was proven by the massive participation in the poll on 22nd March 1998. After the congress of 1998 the crisis at the heart of the LDK has become apparent. President Rugova had secured his power by means of a compromise with the former political detainees who were brought up in the Stalinist school of Enver Hodja and the realists aligned with Mr Agani. The congress provoked a complete purge of the leadership of the LDK in favour of those who were new to the most radical policies. Currently the LDK is not satisfied with independence for Kosovo that is to say the type of independence which was envisaged by the agreement between Holbrooke and Milosevic in October 1998. Now the goal is a Greater Albania founded on an ethnic basis. Suddenly the hope for a political negotiation has become difficult if not impossible. A split has appeared at the heart of the self-proclaimed Autonomous Republic of Kosovo between Ibrahim Rugova and his prime minister Bujar Bukishi. The latter, in exile in Germany, has recently cut off the funds which were destined for Pristina and sent instead to Tirana. Albania's re-entry on the scene risks making an already complex situation even more venomous. Since the popular revolt in Albania in 1997 Sali Berisha with the support of the armed militia and a heightened sense of nationalism has been preparing for his revenge. At the same time as the confrontations in Kosovo, between the Serbian forces of law and order specialists in a scorched earth policy and the militias of the UCK intent on a policy of mopping up the Serbs, a war with Albania has broken out with assassinations and murders. These vicious struggles have contributed to the fall of Fatos Nano on the 28th September 1998 a fortnight after Berisha's attempted coup and are linked to the arms and drugs traffic between Albania and Europe. The whole situation directly threatens the Macedonian Republic where there is a sizeable Albanian minority sitting side by side with a nationalist Macedonian population which is pro Bulgarian and anti Albanian.

This complexity prevents any peaceful negotiations on the Dayton model. This time the NATO raids risk causing a general conflict in the Southern Balkans and reinforces the alternative of an armed struggle led by the nationalists on the far left of the UCV.


The Kosovo Liberation Army (in Albanian ushtia çtirimtare e kosovës UCK) was nicknamed by the Serbian security forces during its period of clandestinity the FAX organisation because of its propensity for using this means of communication. Its platform was made known internationally in April 1997 by German radio and the Serbian newspaper Pristina. In the official version the UCK was set up in Pristina in 1981 in the enthusiasm of the Albanian student movement by the coming together of four small nationalist groups of the extreme left and it put its structure together the following year in Germany. If the 40 or so communiqués to be released to the public are to be believed hundreds of military activities have been organised in Kosovo. On March 18th the UCK called for the elections to be put off accusing Ibrahim Rugova of sowing discord. Then it called on the population to boycott the vote and to enlist in its ranks.

According to an underground publication of the UCK which was reported on in November 1994 in the Serbian newspaper Vecerni Novosti the organisation claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination of a Serbian police officer on 9the November 1993 along with other actions such as the murder of two Serbian police officers in Glogovc. The creation of the UCK in fact it was claimed goes back only to 1992. Whatever the facts this new army, at the time still underground, represented a new element in the Kosovan political landscape. From the beginning the organisation made clear that it doesn't act against innocent populations, but against Belgrade terrorism and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo It proclaimed itself non-terrorist and up until 1993 no Albanian movement attacked any civilian Serbians in Kosovo. After the massacres of Drenica and the radicalisation of the policies of President Ibrahim Rugova who allowed himself to be taken over by a wave of nationalism favouring a Greater Albania the UCK took on new military perspectives and began to engage in a barbaric violence based on a theory of ethnic cleansing directed at the Serbian population in Kosovo.


The Kosovo conflict has already claimed hundreds of deaths in a few months. During the negotiations in October 1998 the American representative Richard Holbrooke managed to make the threat of a NATO intervention credible. On his side Milosevic who has always had Russian support, which plays the card of a spectre of the cold war to turn attention away from the financial mess at home, is no idiot but would prefer to have an agreement. In effect the master of Belgrade finds himself facing attacks from the new regime in Montenegro which is hostile to him. Finally, and this is the most important for him, he knows that with regard to the Kosovo question the West are his allies objectively speaking given their refusal of an independent republic which nobody wants with the exception of the Kosovars and the Albanians. Slobodan Milosevic in order to preserve power as always is playing for time.

Officially the armed NATO force has the role of keeping the cease fire, overseeing the Serbian retreat and allowing humanitarian organisations to work freely. But also it is a question of preventing the UCK militias of retaking possession of territories left vacant by the Yugoslav forces which would spark off the fighting again. These positions bring back memories of Bosnia somewhat: who, in Kosovo, would put their money on those who the media have nicknamed the ice cream sellers, the disarmed observers who are in a theatre of war dominated by barbarian nationalists? It has been claimed that the coming raids and bombardments by NATO could save the 250,000 Kosovan refugees which is mainly made up of poor peasants. But how? If Europe refuses to welcome the war victims and instead hunts them down as in Italy or sends them home as in Germany, Switzerland and France by refusing them political asylum or the free movement of individuals? Does NATO and the Western powers know what they want to see in the Balkans? A jig-saw puzzle of military protectorates destined to become a field of manoeuvres? A multitude of authoritarian and fascist states—a paradise for the militias? Simply chaos? Or federations who can freely develop in peace?