Balkan Peace Team - Kosovo/a -- Monthly Report No. 17
Monthly Report No. 17
- I. WORK OF THE TEAM
- 1. Staffing
- 2. Dragash/š Update
- 3. Meetings
- II. OBSERVATIONS AND IMPRESSIONS
- 1. Political Update
- Political Situation Throughout Kosovo/a
- Political Situation in Dragash/š
- 2. International Presence
- 1. Political Update
I. WORK OF THE TEAM
In late September, Michael Lewis joined the team, becoming the fifth volunteer and bringing the team back to full staff. Michael, who is originally from the United States, studied English at Colgate University and brings new creative skills to the team. Along with Stephan Weiterhaus from Germany, Michael drove the team's second vehicle to Kosovo/a. Michael is now based in Dragash/š working with the Youth Centre project.
To strengthen the continuity in our work, the Kosovo/a team has decided to divide itself into two separate teams, one based in Prishtina and one in Dragash/š. Two volunteers, Liz Abraham and Barbara Allen, will be stationed full-time in Prishtina where they will develop new projects related to supporting local organisations, and to conflict resolution and dialogue work. Three volunteers, Cristina Bianchi, Andrew Nussbaum and Michael Lewis, will be based full-time in Dragash/š to continue facilitating the development of the BPT Youth Centre project. The new arrangement will be given a six week trial period. Following this, there will be an evaluation of this division of work and any needed adjustments will be made.
BPT, in cooperation with two other international NGOs, Forum Civil Peace Service (Forum CPS) and Children's Relief Association (CRA), has secured a temporary space for the Youth Centre. The space is in a former post office building that belongs to the Dragash/š municipality. It has five rooms that will be renovated by CRA, which has done school reconstruction in the area. The building is located in the centre of Dragash/š town, next to the building which serves as a base for Turkish KFOR. The Dragash/š Administrative Board has granted a six month lease for the space. During this time, BPT will continue developing community forums and strengthening other aspects of community involvement in preparation for decision-making about the Youth Centre's permanent location and administration.
In late September, BPT began a 2-day registration process for another round of English courses. Approximately 350 youth registered from Dragash/š town and surrounding villages. Two "level one" classes (one Albanian and one Goran) and two "level two" classes began the following week. A third "conversation level" class is also being offered with an emphasis on group work and cooperation, in order to introduce peace-building activities. This class of Gorans and Albanians generally meets separately, but occasionally comes together for a weekend class. Informal sports activities, including basketball and football, continued during the month of September.
The first of the community forum groups began in September. This group is made up of members of the local community who will be involved in the creation and the ultimate maintenance of the Youth Centre. Three Gorans and three Albanians met separately and then together to begin giving feedback on the Youth Centre programs, gathering ideas, and where possible, implementing them. The group met three times. At the first meeting, they were given a brief history of BPT and they discussed possibilities for their roles in the Youth Centre. They also participated in a role-play exercise. In the following meetings, the group began to discuss and organise activities for the UNMIK-sponsored Kosovo Youth Week, which is scheduled to begin 1. October.
At the beginning of September, seven youth from Dragash/š, both Albanian and Goran, travelled to Prizren to participate in a workshop meeting about the conflict in Northern Ireland. The event was sponsored by Pax Christi and locally facilitated by Forum CPS. It included talks from both a Catholic and Protestant from Northern Ireland. Youth were exposed to both members' political perspectives, their personal history with the conflict, and how they viewed the peace process, in particular the 'Good Friday Agreement'. In conversations with the participants following the meeting, the Kosovar Albanian youth said they saw many similarities between the two conflicts. The news of Dragash/š youth participation spread quite quickly in the Goran community, as the youth shared what they had learned with their peers.
The Training Course on Interethnic Dialogue and Reconciliation in Kosovo continued in September with a session held in Ochrid, Macedonia. The workshop series, which is a joint initiative of Campagna Kossovo and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), aims to provide basic training in nonviolence and conflict resolution to members of the community who can themselves become trainers in nonviolence. The Ochrid session followed three workshops held in Prishtina during May and June, 2000. While the previous sessions involved primarily Albanian participants, the Ochrid session was for Serb participants from Kosovo, Serbia and Macedonia. The trainers for the Ochrid workshop were Pat Patfoort, Center for Nonviolent Conflict Management (Belgium), Professor Alberto L'Abate, University of Florence (Italy), and Kajsa Svensson, former Balkan Peace Team volunteer.
After the Ochrid session, the trainers expressed their belief that the Albanian and Serb groups are ready for the next step in the series, which is a joint meeting that will happen in February, 2001 in Florence, Italy.
In the first of three meetings scheduled between people from Northern Ireland and Kosovo/a, Pax Christi Belgium brought two people from Northern Ireland to Kosovo/a for a week of discussions and presentations. (See above report on the Prizren-Belfast Exchange). The representatives from the Catholic and Protestant communities visited youth communities in Prizren, Prishtina and Kamenica. Following this exchange, there will be another meeting in December in Macedonia, with selected participants from the first round. Later, the participants will have a chance to visit Northern Ireland and experience first-hand the situation there. The exchange has been organised by Franklin DeVrieze of Pax Christi and locally facilitated by Piet Girke of Forum CPS.
In preparation for municipal elections in October, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) began the process of updating the Provisional Voters List in early September. This process was designed to "clean up" the errors and omissions in the list, which were identified during a 10-day Confirmations, Additions, and Challenges (CAC) period that ended on 30 August. During the CAC period, Kosovars who had participated in the registration process were given the opportunity to visit their local registration centre and view the Provisional Voters List, in order to verify that their information had been recorded correctly. Results of the CAC period became quite controversial. Rumours in the local community claimed that as much as 25% of the list contained errors. The Prishtina-based daily newspaper, Koha Ditore, reported a similar error percentage. The OSCE, however, has disputed these claims and has maintained that the error rate is closer to 5% of the total list.
September was a month filled with political rallies across Kosovo/a in the run up to the elections. Three parties have dominated the political rally scene: the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), and the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK). Daily, the parties have been criss-crossing the province with presentations. In KFOR's province-wide security advisories, thus far, there has been no mention of rallies for other political parties.
In one of the largest political party rallies prior to elections, supporters of the LDK gathered in the Prishtina Stadium. Somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 people participated. After listening to party officials, a stream of mostly youth paraded Albanian flags as they drove down the street, honking horns, cheering and chanting "Rugova." The revelry lasted well into the evening, with the level of commotion rising and falling until 6 or 6:30 p.m.
In July, the United States Institute for Peace facilitated a meeting of leading figures from Kosovo/a, both Serb and Albanian, in Airlie, Virginia. At the meeting, the participants sought to identify specific steps they could take to improve relations between their communities. Following on the Airlie Agreements, the Interim Administrative Council agreed to support a Kosovo/a-wide "Day Against Violence." Events to promote the "Pact Against Violence" that was signed in Airlie, were held on 9 September in Kosovo/a's major cities, including Peje, Gjakova, Prizren, Prishtina, Gjilane, Ferizaj and Mitrovica.
In Prishtina, several thousand people gathered in front of the National Theatre in the city centre. The event began at noon with Bernard Kouchner speaking to a crowd of several thousand Kosovars. He first delivered his message in Albanian and then in Serbian. During the Serbian version of the speech, he received boos and hisses to which he snapped back at the audience in English. Kouchner's speech was followed by presentations from the Bosniak and Turkish communities. The Bosniak representative spoke in Bosnian, to which he received scattered applause. This may have been the first time since the bombing that Bosnian has been broadcast over loud speakers in Prishtina. However, Kouchner's hope to have Serbian participation in this event proved impossible.
After the speeches, parts of the crowd began to chant for Rugova and Thaci, neither of whom spoke for the event. The event concluded with the crowd marching down Mother Teresa Street and back into the city centre. Factions of the crowd continued to chant the presidential candidate's names, "Rugova" of the LDK or "Thaci" of the PDK
At the same time as the celebrations for the Day Against Violence, a string of violent attacks began to occur against prominent Kosovars. On 9 September, Radio and Television Kosovo journalist Marjan Melonasia disappeared after leaving work and has been missing since then. Two assailants shot and stabbed journalist Shefki Poova of Rilindja, the oldest Albanian newspaper, on 10 September in Vushtri. The Prishtina Director of Planning, Reconstruction and Development, Rexhep Luci, was shot on 11 September in Dardania, a neighbourhood in Prishtina. Many local people believe that Luci was targeted because of the strict position he had taken against the illegal construction happening in Kosovo/a. The Interim Administrative Council and the Kosovo Transitional Council issued statements condemning the violence.
UNMIK and OSCE officially stated that they would not monitor or assist in preparations for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) elections. An UNMIK policy statement stated that the only elections that would be properly internationally monitored and meet international democratic standards would be the 28 October Kosovo/a Municipal Elections. Albanian representatives at an early September Kosovo Transitional Council meeting said that any attempts by the Serbian authorities to hold elections in Kosovo would destabilise the region. Serbian representatives at that meeting said the elections would be a farce. UNMIK, however, did observe the activities at the 489 polling sites in Kosovo. According to UNMIK, only 260 of the sites were used. UNMIK officials said that consequently, no more than 45,000 Serbs could have participated--and the number of those casting votes is thought to be much lower. Only five polling sites were outside of Serb areas and these locations only had a handful of visitors. In Prishtina, the day of the FRY elections was uneventful. Activities in the city continued as usual.
Thirteen Serb detainees at the North Mitrovica Detention Centre, most of whom were being held on war-crime related charges, escaped on 2 September. While an UNMIK police officer was returning a detainee to his cell, a group of prisoners assaulted the officer, using a gun that had been smuggled into the cell. After tying the officer up, they used his keys to release others. The group tied and gagged three more officers before escaping from the Detention Centre. The UNMIK Deputy Police Commissioner said the incident was shameful and not the first of its kind. He also said the officers responsible for the Detention Centre lacked training in prison duties.
During the month of September, violent incidents continued in Dragash/š, following a pattern that existed over the summer. There were three bomb explosions and some incidents of harassment. All three bombings happened in or near Goran establishments: a café in a Goran village, near the entrance of a Goran home in Dragash/š town; and in a car belonging to a Goran family living in Dragash/š town. While the source and motivation of the attacks are unclear, many Dragash/š residents seem to think that the incidents have a strong link to upcoming municipal elections.
In Dragash/š municipality, 72 percent of the population is Albanian, and 28 percent is Goran. Since they make up such a relatively high percentage of the municipal population, Gorans, if they participate in the upcoming elections, have the potential to determine the direction of the election and gain representation for themselves in the municipal structures. Consequently, they are of great political interest to the Kosovar Albanian political parties that are vying to win votes in the municipality. Albanian residents of Dragash/š have historically maintained strong support for the Democratic League of Kosovo/a (LDK) so the Goran vote is a potential voter base for increasing representation of other political parties. The Democratic Party of Kosovo/a (PDK), which is the second largest party in Kosovo/a, could be squeezed out of representation in Dragash/š altogether if Gorans vote for their own representatives or for LDK representatives.
In the past, SDA, the Bosniak party of which some Gorans are members, participated in the "parallel" elections that were organised by the Albanian community for the "Republic of Kosova" and were largely associated with the LDK. This connection suggests a potential base of LDK support. Locals also report that some Goran villages experienced harassment from KLA fighters during and immediately following the 1999 war, thus creating a negative association with the PDK, which is made up of many former KLA members and led by Hashim Thaci, former KLA head. The combination of Albanian and Goran support for the LDK could leave PDK with no hold in the municipal structures.
Within a span of two days, Dragash/š experienced three political rallies. On 21 September, the LDK held a midday rally in front of the steps of the Radio Sharri building. A few thousand citizens gathered, but the congestion was partially due to students leaving school for the day. Some Kosovars also carried American and German flags (Dragash/š falls under the authority of German KFOR). A few hours after the LDK rally, Ramush Haradinaj, head of the AAK, spoke in the Dragash/š' secondary school. A much smaller crowd, mostly men, packed the school auditorium. No clashes between LDK and AAK supporters were observed.
The following day, members of the PDK organized a rally. A banner was posted at the entrance of Dragash/š stating "Me ne Fitoni ne Kosova," which translates "With us, victory in Kosova." Large speakers were set up in front of the municipality building blaring music. Representatives of PDK distributed PDK hats, stickers and key chains. Some wore T-shirts stating "Think Positively, Think Victory." The shirts were in Albanian on the front and in English on the back. Buses of supporters came from Bresna and other Opoje villages waving flags and honking horns. PDK supporters' vehicles congested the roads of Dragash/š, but one lone vehicle of Gorans trying to display their party pride was also observed. In a small green station wagon, four or five Gorans with a small SDA flag on their car hood attempted to enter the main road but were stalled in the crowd of PDK supporters and eventually turned back. PDK supporters continued to stream in from neighbouring villages into the early afternoon.
Pressures on the Goran Community: Between Kosovo/a and Serbia As an ethnic minority, the Goran community is put in an awkward and vulnerable spot, in the middle of the political process. Many Gorans participated, some secretly, in the internationally-sponsored voter registration process, thus indicating a willingness to be a part of the interim administration of Kosovo/a. At the same time, the presence and influence of the Belgrade regime has appeared to be strong: there are rumours that some Gorans receive pensions from the regime. Cases have also been reported of direct regime pressure not to cooperate with the international structures in Kosovo/a. Part of the Gorans' dilemma is in part caused by the undetermined future status of Kosovo/a. By participating in the elections, Gorans would be expressing a willingness to co-operate in the new political landscape in Kosovo/a and this may raise their status in the eyes of their Kosovar Albanian neighbours. On the other hand, participating puts them out of favour with the Belgrade regime, which may have detrimental consequences if Kosovo/a returns under Serbia's control in the future. Pressure to stay in line with the Belgrade regime has already been felt. One local Goran, who had been vocal in advocating cooperation with the new political structures in the municipality, has said that he subsequently received threats from representatives of the regime and plans to leave Dragash/š due to this harassment. To the Kosovo/a Albanian community, if Gorans do not participate in the elections at all, they will continue to be viewed as outsiders to Kosovo/a politics and collaborators with the Belgrade regime.
Pressures stemming from the threat of violence also appeared to be high within the Albanian community. Last month's explosion that killed the wife of a local LDK leader, Avni Salihu, has been portrayed in a political light, although there is no definitive evidence that it was politically motivated. Other incidents included the burning of a barn belonging to an LDK candidate. Because of some threats, one LDK representative and his family did not visit Dragash/š town all summer. The number of incidents against LDK officials raises questions on how democratic and fair the upcoming municipal elections will be. There have also been reports of incidents against PDK representatives but in Dragash/š, as in all of Kosovo/a, the harassment has been primarily directed toward LDK members. During Vision 2000, the local radio station's discussion with local political leaders, allegations of political intimidation were made against a PDK representative by representatives of other parties.
Following the elections in Serbia, the incidence of political intimidation appeared to drop. The change may be due partly to a fear in the Albanian community that Kosovo/a must now compete for international attention and aid with Serbia, which, following the election of Vojislav Kostunica, is perceived by many internationals to have taken a democratic turn.
In the Kosovar Albanian community, youth appear to be the political work-horses within the parties. Many youth in Dragash/š are involved in the LDK Youth Forum and they assisted in organising party rallies. Support of the PDK is far lower in Dragash/š municipality but the party has been trying to rally support from the villages. Buses of youth were brought to Dragash/š town to show their support of the PDK. Other Dragash/š youth assisted in political events by posting party posters all over the town before all the political rallies. Overall, youth participation in political parties appears to be an extension of a family's political preference. If a parent or family member is part of a political party, a young person will usually participate in supporting that same party.
Immediately following the Serbian elections, there was a degree of panic in the Goran community. There were rumours that Gorans in Serbia may return to Kosovo/a. Gorans have strong ties to Belgrade, but still perceive themselves, and are perceived by Serbs, as a distinct ethnic minority that remains somewhat removed from the Serb community. They travel freely between Dragash/š and Serbia and their language is similar to Serbian. However, they do not have a common religion: the Gorans are Muslims while the Serbs are Orthodox Christians. Some Gorans feared for the safety of their family members in Belgrade when Milosevic's reaction to Kostunica's victory remained unclear. One family, whose son was planning to go to Serbia for school, waited a few days until the demonstration fever calmed down before sending him to Vranje, in southern Serbia. The relative peacefulness of Serb demonstrations placated the sense of alarm in the Goran community. Tensions were also eased when people learned that family members had not been harassed.
The NGO council, a Prishtina-based coordination body of international NGOs, wrote and distributed a statement condemning the increase of ethnically motivated violence in Kosovo/a. The statement, signed by 78 international NGOs, was distributed to local media and international governmental agencies working in Kosovo/a on 9 September. The statement also appeared in the Kosovo Humanitarian Update, a publication of the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The Norwegian peace scholar Johan Galtung conducted a symposium on 13 September in Prishtina entitled "Conflict Transformation and Reconciliation Around the World." The event was organized by the Institute for Civil Administration, which is run by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Academics from Prishtina University, intellectuals from various fields in Kosovo/a society, and representatives from OSCE, UNMIK as well as local and international NGOs attended the symposium. Galtung also conducted two day, conflict resolution courses for senior Kosovo/a municipal staff during his visit.
Balkan Peace Team in Kosovo/a
Rruga Nëna Tereze 72-A/9 or Vidovdanska 72-A/9,
Tel/Fax: ++381-38-42 708
If you wish to use or require clarification of any of the information included, please contact Balkan Peace Team FRY at the above address. Please forward this report to anyone you think may be interested.
International BPT Office