By GERRY FOLEY
At the end of May, a major Macedonian military sweep to clear Albanian nationalist guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (UCK) from a number of rural areas that they control in Western Macedonia has been continuing for more than a month.
Three things have become clear:
- The Macedonian government is pursuing a ruthless policy of military repression to deal with the Albanian insurgency, indifferent to the fate of the population in the areas controlled by the UCK.
- The Western powers, principally the United States, have been putting powerful pressure on the Albanian bourgeois parties to collaborate with the predominately Slavic nationalist Macedonian government to isolate the UCK.
- The Albanian guerrillas are continuing to fight and win sympathy among the Albanian population in Macedonia and Kosovo.
The Belgrade daily Politika, formerly the mouthpiece of Milosevic and now an equally supine supporter of the new government, has reported the Macedonian army’s use of heavy weapons against the guerrillas with evident enjoyment (like the “good old days” of the Greater Serbian war against the Kosovo Liberation Army). Here is an example from the May 29 issue:
“In actions of clearing the territory MI military helicopters were used today. Army sources report that the terrorist groups have been defeated and are trying to regroup near the village of Matejce, while armed units that have not yet thrown away their weapons are fleeing in the high wooded areas of Skopje’s Black Mountains.
“According to the same sources, after the death yesterday of one of the commanders of the terrorist UCK, Fadilja Limanija, in a clash with the Macedonian security forces … as well as the serious wounding of his second in command, confusion reigns in the ranks of the Siptar [an abusive term for Albanians] bandits.”
The article went on to report that the Macedonian army responded to UCK attacks on police with tanks and armored personal carriers. It also noted that “Serbs and Macedonian Slavs” were fighting the UCK with “hunting rifles.” This reference seems ominous in view of reports of the formation of Slavic chauvinist paramilitary groups.
The Macedonian government and the Yugoslav press have claimed that the UCK has been using civilians as a “living shield.” The UCK has responded by calling on the “international actors,” presumably NATO and the European Union, as well as the International Red Cross, to monitor the evacuation of civilians.
Leaders of the Albanian communities have complained that their people are afraid and do not believe assurances from the Macedonian government. One example is the village of Likove, where a May 31 dispatch from Kosovapress, a press service close to the former Kosovo Liberation Army, reported that the population refused to heed the Macedonian authorities’ demand to leave the area, which is being bombed and shelled.
A May 28 dispatch from Kosovapress noted that the British organization Human Rights Watch had documented maltreatment of the Albanian population at the hands of the Macedonian army and police.
Pressure from the imperialist authorities forced the Albanian parliamentary politicians in Macedonia to renounce a common statement they made with the UCK, the so-called Prizren Document.
But serious analyses in the bourgeois press made it clear that the Albanian bourgeois politicians are under increasing pressure from a radicalization among the Albanian people.
This squeeze on the Albanian politicians recalls the U.S. pressure on the conservative Kosovar leader Ibrahim Rugova to break with the militants in the Kosovar movement in the mid-1990s, which was one of the factors that led to the emergence of the Kosovo Liberation army.