Tensions Increase Between Kosovars and KFOR


The intervention of the United States and its allies in the Kosovo conflict has solved none of the problems that provided the pretext for it.

First of all, the interventionist powers still refuse to accept the demand of the overwhelming majority of the Kosovar people for independence. The imperialist occupiers thereby leave open the possibility of a return of the Yugoslav armed forces and police, which the Russian government has just reasserted is part of UN Resolution 1244, the supposed basis of UN intervention in Kosovo.

This prospect keeps the Kosovars in a state of insecurity. Moreover, the Kosovar Albanian on-line press service has recently reported on alleged documents of the Yugoslav army that lay out plans for reintroducing its forces into Kosovo.

At the same time, the Kosovar leaders have not retreated from their demand for independence. They continue to state that this is what they fought for and what thousands of Kosovars died for in the struggle against the Serbian chauvinist regime.

For example, the on-line Kosovar Albanian press service reported June 26 on a joint meeting of the Decan and Junik branches of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, the party formed by the majority leadership of the Kosovo Liberation Army. It gave extensive quotes from Rame Buja and Adem Grabovci, national leaders of the party.

Buja said: “The world has not yet heard our guns of liberation, it does not want to hear about the Albanian question. We have a certain measure of freedom, but we still do not have the independence for which our companions sacrificed themselves.

“We vow, and together we have the obligation, to achieve it, otherwise we would be trampling on the blood of our martyrs. And that we will never do, no matter how great the difficulties.”

Grabovci said: “We have and will explain the truth to the people, as we did during the war, with our sacrifices, and we will continue to do so until we have achieved independence, regardless of the price.”

However, the KFOR have been stepping up their attempts to completely disarm the Albanian Kosovar population, which is also one of the stipulations of Resolution 1244. This is no easy task, since the Kosovars are still a largely rural people with an ancient tradition of bearing arms.

KFOR’s arms raids and the arrests involved with them have been arousing more and more protests and complaints that the UN forces are trying to accomplish what even the Serbs, with their massive repression, could not do.

On June 16, a British unit of KFOR, the occupying force operating under the aegis of the UN, reported the discovery of a huge hidden arsenal near Drenica, a stronghold of the old KLA. The British commanders claimed that the arms had been concealed by the KLA and therefore showed that it had not disarmed and dissolved as it claimed to do in compliance with the demands of the occupying powers.

Agim Ceku, former commander of the KLA and the present commander of the Kosovo Defense Force, a force set up on the basis of a compromise between KFOR and the majority of the old KLA leadership, responded as follows to the accusations of the British officers:

“We have no knowledge of the origin of these weapons, or of the routes and channels by which they came. And we do not want to speculate about whom they may belong to. We have to assure everyone, first of all KFOR, that these arms do not belong to the KLA.

“I can say with total conviction that the KLA did not have these arms during the war, because everyone knows the difficulties we had with arms in the army, especially during the bombing campaign and in the conditions of the Serbian army offensive.”

The Belgrade opposition magazine Vreme raised questions about the British officers’ claims, although it has been consistently hostile to the KLA, denouncing it as a die-hard Communist force:

“The place where the arms were found, the village of Klecka, in the Drenica region, raises some questions. This locality first came into the public eye two years ago, when Serbian police forces found a KLA training camp at the base of the plateau. After a short battle, the police occupied the base and found a stockpile of arms and food. And a story was put out about lime kilns used to burn the bodies of Serbs and Albanian dissidents. Klecka became sort of a symbol of the sufferings of the Serbs in Kosovo and the misdeeds of the KLA.

“At the time, Kosovar journalists asked the representatives of the Serbian forces how such a large base could be discovered only four months after the start of the conflict. … This question remained unanswered.”

Despite its doubts about the British story, Vreme expressed hopes that the arms find would increase the tensions between KFOR and the Kosovar Albanians. In fact, the June 29 issue of the Belgrade daily Politika, an organ of the Milosevic regime, reported that “for the first time” Kosovar Albanians had protested against KFOR, specifically in connection with the confiscation of these arms. Actually, there have been protests by Kosovars against KFOR for many months. (See last month’s Socialist Action.)

The demonstration in question was in the locality of Lapusnica. The Kosovar on-line news service, Kosovapress në Gjuhen Sqipe, reported the same incident. But it connected it to raids of hundreds of Kosovar homes carried out after the arms find and the arrest of Sabi Shalla, who provided shelter for thousands of Kosovars during the Serbian mass expulsions of Albanians.

The dispatch quoted the protesters as saying: “If they visited the places where the Serbs have taken refuge, they would find tons of weapons. But they are inspecting the Albanians, mistreating them in various ways.

“We are also protesting against the defiling of our national symbols by irresponsible members of these civilian and military institutions, as well as against the mistreatment of persons respected for their service to the nation, in particular by Russian KFOR forces, and against the creation of Serbian enclaves in Kosovo.”

Kosovapress listed the slogans of the demonstration as follows: “Don’t desecrate our flag,” “Free Sabi Shalla,” “Long live the KLA,” and “The arms belong to the people.”

The Kosovar press service also quoted the protesters as saying that they were not complaining about KFOR in general but only about the actions of some of its units. This undoubtedly reflects the political maneuvering that is going on in Kosovo. None of the organized forces involved is saying what it really thinks about the situation.

The Milosevic regime, for its part, has specialized in spreading fantastic tales of a “holocaust” of Serbs and other non-Albanian peoples in Kosovo. Thus, Politika has been claiming that 360,000 Serbs have fled from Kosovo, about twice the total number of ethnic Serbs reported living in the region by the last official counts before NATO intervention.

Milosevic and his spokespersons claim that KFOR is really backing the Albanians, but at the same time they are trying to exploit the differences they know exist between the Albanians and occupying powers.

In fact, an article in the June 30 issue of Politika tries to pit the European powers against the United States, claiming that since the European powers themselves are threatened by “separatism,” they oppose the national aspirations of the Albanians, while Washington supports them. Milosevic’s draft antiterrorist law, which went before the Yugoslav federal parliament June 3, is being defended by spokespersons of his regime with profuse references to the “legitimate” antiterrorist struggle of countries such as Britain, France, and Spain.

For their part, the Albanian Kosovar leaders claim that they are eager students of the West, but they indicate in a number of ways that they know that their acclaimed big brothers really do not support their aspirations (e.g., the statement by Buja quoted above).

Moreover, the Kosovars have very reason to fear, on the basis of the history of U.S. treachery toward small nations it had claimed to support, that at a certain point they may be handed over helpless to the mercy of their chauvinist oppressors. That was the experience of the Iraqi Kurds in 1975.

In this atmosphere of confusion and duplicity, there can be many explanations for the Drenica arms dump. It might be a Serbian provocation, as the former KLA leaders have suggested. It also might represent a secret attempt to rearm by Kosovar forces fearing that they may have to fight the Serbs again. In fact, it is to be hoped that there are Kosovar leaders who foresee such a danger.

But Kosovar leaders need to prepare for the dangers ahead politically, by exposing the duplicity of the occupying powers and seeking allies that genuinely support the aspirations of the Kosovar people. That can only mean looking to the rebuilding of a principled, internationalist movement based on the fight for a future for all the working people of the world. And that means fighting the forces that divide them, such as national oppression and competing exploiters. 

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