Collapse of the Kosovo Albanian Political Scene

AIM Podgorica, 21 May, 1999
(By AIM correspondent from Pristina)

Internationalization of the war in Kosovo had an unexpected consequence: the Kosovo Albanian political scene has experienced total collapse. On the one hand, this collapse was caused by brutal reaction of Serbian military troops. Total repression, liquidation of prominent intellectuals and political activists, as well as mass deportation of ethnic Albanians into neighbouring countries destroyed communication among people and prevented operation of all "parallel" institutions and organizations. On the other hand, it became evident that Kosovar "parallel institutions" were not at all prepared for war. The self-organized society of Kosovo Albanians fell apart as a house built on sand under the vindicive aggression of the Serbian state force.

The ten-year civil, non-violent resistance movement in Kosovo had not prepared any paramilitary structures, any committees for the case of war. The split in the ethnic Albanian movement that occurred in the beginning of 1998, when the moderate political faction separated from the militant groups which had decided to foment an armed uprising (Kosovo Liberation Army - UCK) was not patched up in the meantime. Although the Kosovo delegation was complete at the peace conference in Rambouillet and Paris, in the field the influence of the politicians and the rebels remained strictly divided: a part of the rural territory of Kosovo was controlled by UCK, the remaining part was controlled by "politicians" who neither wished nor were capable of introducing any measures of self-defence in the civil structures of resistance in case of war.

After 24 March, when bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia by NATO air-force began, the political scene of Kosovo Albanians was in the state of coma. Negotiators from Kosovo returned from Paris to Kosovo with a wrong estimate of the situation or believed that they "should be with their people". It turned out that they were mostly isolated or left with no possibility to communicate with the people and the world. Rugova remained in Pristina where Serbian police put him under house arrest. Agani, Surroi and a few others decided to go into hiding. Hyseni, Kosumi and Hajrizi joined the UCK. Qosja, Tahiri and Shala managed somehow to get out of the trap by joining columns of deported people. A few days before the mass exodus began, Qosja appealed on the people to remain in Kosovo at all costs. When the pogrom began, he was among the first who crossed the Kosovo-Macedonian border, with his head shaved and humiliated. Since then, Qosja has remained silent. Other leaders were either prevented to speak out or they are silent of their own free will. While under control of the police, Rugova was manipulated by Milosevic's regime. His pictures were taken with Serbian officials, certain papers allegedly signed by him were presented to the public, it was claimed that he declared himself against NATO bombing.

Political anaesthesia lasted for more than a month. Only UCK and LBD impatiently and according to certain opinions prematurely decided to proclaim a new government of Kosovo. The government was self-elected based on an agreement of all political factions represented at the conference in Rambouillet, but there were no representatives of LDK. The seat of a deputy prime minister and a few unimportant ministerail posts were reserved for the Democratic League of Kosovo. The new government has fine sounding titles but almost no political experience or influence in foreign governments. It was supported only by Titana. The attempts to reach an agreement on a coalition or establish close cooperation with the already existing Kosovo government in exile headed by Bukoshi, were not successful.

Bukoshi, whose government was also politically very feeble, maintained control thanks to the fact that he controlled significant funds of Kosovo emigration collected in the past nine years. Nobody but Bukoshi and the German authorities which occasionally check financial operation of the fund, knows what is the sum ofmoney on this account. It is assumed that it is enormous. That is why the UCK is so envious of that vault and constantly threatens Bukoshi. He is, on the other hand, opposed to revolutionary methods of UCK and LBD, to the self-proclaimed Kosovo government without consultations with his government and legal administration of Kosovo elected in the elections.

The two governments, the bad situation in the field, endless columns of refugees, collapse of political structures. It seemend that Kosovo Albanian political scene was under blockade or a deep anaesthetic. Since the society of Kosovo is the patient NATO intervention is supposed to save of the malignant Serb aggression, to some people it seemed that such anaesthesia of the patient was normal. He will politically coherently speak up only after the operation is over.

Things somewhat changed when Belgrade decided to let Rugova go. At the moment when on May 5 Rugova arrived in Rome with his family, it was uncertain whether the propagandist circus with him would continue, whether Belgrade was still holding him in its hand, or whether some significant shift had occurred in Milosevic's policy. Two days later, Milosevic's regime once again demonstrated its criminal unpredictability. Fehmi Agani, ideologist of the Democratic League of Kosovo and the main Kosovo negotiator was liquidated by Serbian police when he attempted to leave Kosovo. He was recognised on the train which plied between Pristina and the border crossing towards Macedonia, arrested and taken to Lipljan. After 24 hours, his family was informed that he had been killed.

These two events started an avalanche of political speculations: why was Rugova let go and why was Agani killed? What exactly was Milosevic driving at? Is he getting ready to sign a political agreement with the West and for that purpose preparing a political partner among Kosovo Albanians who suits him best? Or does he wish just to create new confusion and a new split among the Albanians in order to weaken credibility of the NATO intervention?

From the beginning of the negotiating process Milosevic has constantly invested into and relied greatly on the split among Kosovo Albanian leaders. In a way Rugova was an apple of discord in the Albanian movement. On the other hand, Agani played a very important role in rapprochement and cooperation among factions. Belgrade probably did not like it that Agani would return into the political process. He was considered to be the key person who could have reunited the negotiating team of Kosovo Albanians. The regime in Belgrade knew what it was doing when most probably directly from the very top it ordered liquidation of Agani. Although Agani enjoyed the reputation of a man who was in favour of dialogue and a moderate politician ready for a compromise, he was nevertheless a very experienced and skilful negotiator who never missed a single detail or formulation in draft peace plans, and therefore caused great problems to the Serb negotiating team. For three decades, Agani worked on the project of independence of Kosovo in a very sophisticated manner, using mostly legal channels of influence, but working also on secret mobilization of people for this cause. He was constantly under surveillance of Serbian secret police as a master of disguise who had a clear aim but also a realistic approach in the assessment of relation of forces and what was possible and what not in the given circumstances.

Agani's liquidation, from the point of view of criminal police logic, could have also been squaring old accounts with somebody who had been more or less elusive for them, who was too sophisticated in his political activities. As concerning the political scene of Kosovo and the relation of forces that existed on that scene, Agani was probably the only full-fledged institutionalist on it. Inside the Democratic league of Kosovo, he kept defending the thesis on the advantages of the status Kosovo had in the former Yugoslav federation pursuant the 1974 constitution, along with the significance of continuity of institutions created after 1990 on the basis of the declaration on independence, proclamation of the republic of Kosovo, 1991 referendum and free elections in 1992, with institutions which existed in the previous system, since in former Yugoslavia Kosovo had the status of a federal unit with the right to veto decisions, and therefrom it was entitled to division of sovereignty, that is proclamation of the republic. Agani believed that the so-called parallel institutions in Kosovo which operated in the nineties were in fact institutions from the previous system, while Serbian institutions installed in the meantime were illegitimate and illegal, founded on violence and violation of the sovereign will of the citizens of Kosovo.

Agani's critics, among other factions within his own party, preferred to advocate the idea of discontinuity of institutions. Some of them, like the radical groups outside the DSK, denied the parallel system in Kosovo in general, believing it to be the result of Titoism. This system enables only high autonomy of Kosovo within Serbia and Yugoslavia and no more. That is the reason why a radical cut should be made and completely new institutions created based on the principle of ethnic self-determination, or, as it later became the guiding principle of the most militant organizations, primarily the National Movement of the Albanians (LPK), based on the revolutionary National Liberation War.

After liquidation of Agani, the only serious forces left on the scene are UCK and Ibrahim Rugova. While he was under home arrest in Pristina, Rugova was in a tragi-comical situation. He resembled a puppet and a rag used by the Serbian regime for purposes of propaganda, to show him to the public as a bear dancing to music from Belgrade and showing documents that he had allegedly signed. It seemed that he was in any case politically dead. Although he continued to act strangeley after his release, Rugova gradually managed to "recover" politically and now he is already advocating the same things as before. Although it is still not quite clear whether he will manage to regain his previous position, there should be no doubt that he still enjoys the trust of a portion of the Kosovars. How big that portion is, it is impossible to establish without polls, but according to rough estimates it is almost certain that he will win between 25 and 50 per cent of the votes, approximately the same or even slightly more than his main opponent, Hashim Tachi.

In any case, this competition may revive the Albanian political scene. Whether the processes will move towards a search for a compromise, as it happened in Rambouillet, or whether the split will remain, it is difficult to predict. However, it is assessed that this split will not be so tragic or have any tragic consequences. The main job about the status of Kosovo is being taken care of by NATO and diplomatic officials of the great powers. Ethnic Albanians have already adopted the principles of resolving the issue of Kosovo and nobody will ever ask them whether they would want to have the document which will be adopted revised. The conflict between the two factions may in this context be considered only as taking strategic positions in the struggle to control the local scene of Kosovo. A protectorate will be established in Kosovo anyway.

AIM Pristina


kosovo | |