bouncing ethnicity

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at
Tue Mar 30 15:12:57 PST 1999

-----Original Message----- From: Tom Lehman <TLEHMAN at> To: lbo-talk at <lbo-talk at>

>What percent of the "Albanian" population was
>content with the pre-bombing situation in Kosovo. One thing that I noticed
>reading the old news was that the KLA's main target after killing Serbian
>was killing other "Albanians".

Close to zero percent of the Albanian population was satisfied, with dissatisfaction meaning almost complete boycotts of government-run elections, schools, hospitals and agencies in favor of an almost complete, if substandard parallel Kosovan set of institutions administered by a leadership elected in illegal elections that nonetheless had overwhelming participation.

Where divisions existed were between those advocating non-violence - the overwhelming majority until the last couple of years -- and those advocating violence, a tiny minority until Serbian brutality took in recent years.

Here is an article that captures some of the tensions between mass mobilization around non-violence and the rising relevance of the violent option:

Los Angeles Times Copyright 1998 / The Times Mirror Company

Tuesday, March 17, 1998

Foreign Desk

Waiting for Rugova as Anxiety Grows in Kosovo Serbia: Ethnic Albanian leader faces increasing criticism for his tepid response to crackdown. TRACY WILKINSON TIMES STAFF WRITER

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the ethnic Albanians in Serbia's Kosovo province, was ushered into a room packed with journalists from all corners of the world hungry for his comments on the crisis threatening to destroy his people.

Trademark silk scarf around his neck, Rugova made a brief statement, took two short questions, one in French and one in English, and then swept abruptly out of the room. Urgent matters, such as whether he would negotiate with Serbian authorities to restore peace to Kosovo, were not addressed.

Disappointing journalists is no sin. But Rugova is coming under increasing criticism from Kosovo's Albanians for failing to take a more forceful role as this region staggers under a ferocious police crackdown that has killed scores of people and terrorized tens of thousands. As allegiance to Rugova erodes, support for radical methods grows, observers here warn.

Aloof and intellectual, Rugova is still admired, even worshiped, by vast numbers of ethnic Albanians. He will undoubtedly be renamed "president" in underground elections that the Kosovo Albanians will hold this weekend, elections that the world does not recognize but that the Albanians use to assert their claim to independence.

"Rugova is our father," said Alush Gashi, a university professor and member of Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo party.

In the nine years since Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic stripped Kosovo of its autonomy, Rugova has overseen the building of parallel, if substandard, governmental, educational and health systems. Ethnic Albanians refuse to recognize Serbia's rule, pay taxes only to their own authorities, avoid the draft and speak their own language. Rugova has pressed an unwavering demand that Kosovo be made an independent state separate from Serbia and the rest of the rump Yugoslavia.

But Rugova's weaknesses as a politician have never been as starkly exposed as now.

The way many Kosovo Albanians see it, Rugova's policy of passive resistance, of "waiting" for independence, has failed to deliver the freedom they seek. His lack of tolerance for dissent and democratic debate has polarized the political scene and stifled the growth of alternative leaders, critics say.

When added to the brutal repression from Belgrade, the Serbian and Yugoslav capital, the result, Albanian analysts and politicians say, is mounting frustration that helped form an armed separatist movement, known as the Kosovo Liberation Army. Many in Kosovo now feel that they have little choice: Rugova or the separatists, with no moderate middle.

At the height of the turmoil in the region, after police special forces launched an operation to wipe out Kosovo's separatist guerrillas, Rugova made frequent appeals to foreign capitals for help, and he has received numerous visiting envoys. Over the weekend, he reiterated his call for "urgent intervention" in Kosovo by the U.S. and Europe.

He has not, however, visited the scene of the worst destruction, where police attacked villagers' homes and killed women and children, among others. He has not proposed a concrete plan of action. He has given no encouragement to the tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians who have braved potential police beatings to march through the streets of Pristina, Kosovo's regional capital. He has not attended the marches.

On Monday, about 2,000 ethnic Albanian women waving loaves of bread attempted to parade 30 miles from Pristina to the region where the violence unfolded this month. They were turned back by police. It was the fourth march in a week.

Rugova's principal rival, Adem Demaqi, who spent 28 years in Serbian jails as a political prisoner and heads the main opposition party among Kosovo Albanians, publicly branded Rugova a coward.

"We have a leader without leadership," said Mahmut Bakalli, an influential former Communist Party chief and regional president of Kosovo in Tito's Yugoslavia.

U.S. envoys who meet regularly with Rugova are growing impatient and disappointed with the 53-year-old writer and literary scholar. They are worried that he will not be strong enough to save Kosovo from war. Diplomats are urging Rugova to compromise with Milosevic, particularly on the issue of independence, and to enter into negotiations with Belgrade as soon as possible.

Rugova refused twice last week and again Monday to meet with Milosevic's representatives. He said that Belgrade's halfhearted offer was a sham not worthy of consideration, and most Albanians agreed. Critics wondered, however, whether Rugova has the skill and flexibility to negotiate successfully.

"It is very discouraging to see, in an obvious crisis, he doesn't have the personality to rise to the occasion," a Western official said. "He lives in a fantasy world. Anyone who shows flexibility is [labeled] a traitor and cut down."

Yet diplomats and his Albanian critics see no alternative to Rugova. No other leader with his clout has emerged.

Rugova defends his management of Kosovo. In interviews and public appearances, he says the fact that "Kosovars" exist is an important achievement. "The people of Kosovo are committed to independence, and we are working hard to see that achieved," he said last week.

Rugova kept Kosovo from exploding during years of discrimination, as a tiny Serbian majority ruled nearly 2 million ethnic Albanians in what some describe as an apartheid-like arrangement. Few Albanians had decent jobs, police harassment was widespread, and lack of opportunity drove tens of thousands to leave the country.

Rugova began to lose control last year. His constant reassurances to his people that the West supported Kosovo's drive for independence were exposed as untrue. (Most Western countries support autonomy or other special status but not secession.) Kosovo got its first independent daily newspaper, Koha Ditore. The first medical students to have received nothing but parallel-system education were graduated--emphasizing the fact that inferior schooling was becoming permanent. The 1995 Bosnia peace accords ignored Kosovo and seemed to reward the military aggression of Bosnian Serbs by giving them their own state. And then, for the first time, a viable armed alternative gained momentum, killing Serbian police officers and Albanian quislings.

"Rugova used radical rhetoric, but the results of his policy were minimal," said Baton Haxhiu, an editor at Koha Ditore. "Rugova is politically impotent. His policy helps the [Kosovo Liberation Army], but there is no mechanism to replace him."

Still, Rugova remains an important symbol of nationalist dreams for many ethnic Albanians.

"We completely support Rugova," Qamil Qitaku, 25, said as he watched a mass of protesters snaking through downtown Pristina streets last week. "He is the president of the Republic of Kosovo. He is the protector of the interests of the Albanian nation."

Qitaku's buddy, Genc Fazlia, 24, agreed--up to a point.

"First we try the peaceful way, and if that doesn't work, we will take up arms," he said. "People in my birthplace are being massacred and tortured. How much longer can we wait?"

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