Skip to comments.Another March in Kosovo?
Posted on 12/20/2004 5:23:22 AM PST by Nennsy
Talk of Haradinaj Indictment Unnerves Kosovo
If the Hague tribunal indicts the former KLA commander, violence may erupt in his western Kosovo heartland.
By Zana Limani and Muhamet Hajrullahu in Decani, and Jeta Xharra in London (BCR No 533, 16-Dec-04)
The situation in western Kosovo is increasingly fragile two weeks ahead of the December 31 deadline for the Hague tribunal to issue the final war crimes indictments in the former Yugoslavia.
Many people interviewed by IWPR in the Decani region, home to Ramush Haradinaj, the new prime minister of Kosovo, are predicting major unrest if he is indicted in the final three weeks.
Tribunal officials visiting Pristina have already questioned Haradinaj twice, on November 10 and 11, over his role as a commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, in 1998-99 in the western Dukagjini region.
The possibility that an indictment might be issued did not prevent Haradinaj from being nominated to the second most important post in the Kosovo government after the presidency.
He was inaugurated as prime minister on December 3, after a coalition deal was struck between Kosovos biggest party, the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, and Haradinajs Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK.
Although Haradinaj says he is confident that he will continue to run the government, some of his hard-line supporters in the Decani area are preparing for the worst.
Ibrahim Selmanaj, mayor of Decani, says local officials are bracing themselves for turbulence.
Knowing the mentality of my people, and knowing that Ramushs family is highly respected for the sacrifice of family members in the war, people will react very badly to his arrest, Selmanaj told IWPR.
This reaction will be directed at everything and everyone, including my own institution, the mayor added.
Others are also predicting that Haradinajs arrest will trigger unrest in the town, which is burdened with high unemployment, especially among the young, and poor infrastructure.
Naim Rashiti, a researcher with the International Crisis Group office in Kosovo, who spent two days in the western areas researching the security situation, says a combination of economic deprivation and demographics could lead to serious trouble in the event of Haradinajs arrest.
Six hundred students graduate yearly from Decani high schools, of whom only 100 go on to university, said Rashiti. The rest of the unemployed young people are left behind, listening to stories and legends about the [1998-99] war. They would have no problem with violence if somebody with a heroic reputation, such as Haradinaj, was indicted.
There will definitely be riots like those in March if he [Haradinaj] is arrested, agreed Rexhë Kukalaj, who runs a Kosova Petrol gas station in Decani. Once they start, who knows what will happen next?
If they wanted to arrest him, they shouldnt have let him become prime minister in the first place.
Naim Haxhosaj, 25, a student from Decani, confirmed he was ready to take to the streets if Haradinaj was indicted, adding that he would direct his anger at the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK.
I will join protests against UNMIK because they are the ones who are cooperating with The Hague over these unfair arrests, Haxhosaj told IWPR.
Veterans from the Kosovo war also said they held UNMIK responsible.
We blame UNMIK for every arrest so far, and they are the ones we protest against, said Sherif Krasniqi, president of the Association of War Veterans, which says it defends KLA war values.
In Kosovo, they are the ones leading the inquiries, not The Hague, he added.
The anger vented against UNMIK is ironic given that Carla del Ponte, the Hague tribunals chief prosecutor, publicly criticised the UN body at the NATO summit on December 3 for its alleged failure to cooperate over war crimes in Kosovo.
In spite of the mounting hostile chorus, the NATO-led peacekeeping Kosovo Force, KFOR, says it is not convinced there is any serious cause for concern at the moment.
The situation is calm and quiet and we love it like that, KFOR spokesman Colonel Yves Kermorvant told the media in Pristina on December 10.
A former member of the KLA living in Decan, however, told IWPR that UNMIK might find itself facing paramilitaries if Haradinaj was indicted.
No one has given up all the arms they had in the war, he said. We could easily get a thousand armed people together overnight.
These are people who have nothing to lose, said Naim Rashiti. They are not necessarily members of the AAK [Hardinajs party] but they would be former KLA fighters, or members of more militant organisations who have been involved before in conflicts in the Presevo valley and Macedonia.
Other potential fighters, according to Rashiti, would be young people who did not fight in any of these previous conflicts but who are now desperate to vent their frustration.
UNMIK head Soren Jessen-Petersen certainly knows he will have his hands full if violence does erupt if Haradinaj is arrested.
On December 13 he told the BBCs Hardtalk show that he had asked KFOR to ensure that troops in the ground were more mobile, more flexible and also more visible.
However, fears remain that it will take more than efficient deployment of troops to keep control of Kosovo if there is an eruption of violence, which many believe is imminent.
Zana Limani and Muhamet Hajrullahu are journalists with IWPRs Kosovo office. Jeta Xharra is IWPR Kosovo project manager.
Hello guys. It's been a while since my last post, but I've been so busy that I could only read what you wrote.
I'll try improving that.
I got an interesting story to tell you, on the occasion of Thanksgiving. Rugova made an "impressive" speech before US troops, and mentioned few things that had so many people in shock. More details later.
Also, when you have time visit Kosovo forum, where you can directly discuss various issues with Decani Monastery monks.
I really recommend it.
This is very likely an outcome of National Guard training of Albanian terrorists (a.k.a. KPC) for the final onslaught.
Thanks for the Thanksgiving tip. I'll check if anyone from MSM reported about this. If not, it is the news in itself, bigger than what Rugova actually said.
Stay safe and please do not jeopardize your personal safety in any way.
DTA, Rugova was saying on Thanksgiving that Albanians celebrated Thanksgiving as well, but that comunists forbid it. He also said that they'll start celebrating it again, and they would call it Harvest day. I mean what kind of crap is this??? They never heared of Thanksgiving before KFOR came to Kosovo!
Some are saying that maybe "harvest day" is how albanians refer to ethnic cleansing of other non-albanians.
Everyday we learn something new from the glorius Albanian history. Skenderbeg was an Albanian. Alexander the Great was an Albanian. Mother Theresa was an Albanian. Now we have Albanian Thanksgiving. I guess that Albanian children also learn in school about Albanian piljgrims who disembarked on Roka Pljimut, place Americans later called Plimouth Rock in their honor.
UNMIK complains about slow progress in Kosovo. It seems that only spinning of tall tales is alive and well.
Clinton's unsantioned war - out in 2 years he said - yeah right.