August 2, 2002

Comment: Kosovo Extremists Out of Control

The international community should intervene to stop the growing number of attacks on Serb civilians and their holy sites.

By Father Sava in Decani (BCR No 355, 2-Aug-02)

After the terrorist attack in Klokot village near Vitina on July 31, in which five Serb homes were destroyed by powerful explosives, and the recent unsuccessful raid on the Holy Archangels monastery near Prizren, it is more evident than ever that Albanian terrorist groups act freely and with impunity in Kosovo today.

Their targets are Serb civilians, their homes and holy sites - especially cemeteries. Dozens of Orthodox churches destroyed after the war in Kosovo were demolished with explosives, despite the strong NATO-led military presence in the area. Such devastating attacks could have been executed only by well-trained people with military experience and surely not by ordinary frustrated civilians.

The cause of today's terrorism is the simple fact that the paramilitary structures of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, continued operating after the war either within the internationally sponsored Kosovo Protection Corps, KPC - which was nothing but a legalised KLA - or through a network of semi-legal private security agencies and mafia gangs associated with wartime heroes and political leaders.

KLA structures were never disbanded, and the first consequences were Albanian-armed insurrections in south Serbia's Presevo valley and in Macedonia. A policy of tolerating crime and violence has brought the international mission to a standstill.

The best indicator of the "credibility" of KPC - for which western taxpayers have generously given millions of dollars through their governments - is the sheer fact that almost all its post-war leaders are now either in prison, have been suspended for various violations or have been added to President George Bush's blacklist - an impressive record for an organisation that was proclaimed as a great post-war success.

While the Security Council applauds the "tremendous achievements" of the UN Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, in everyday life, an objective observer can only witness the deterioration of the security and human rights situations.

Attacks on Serb civilians and their holy sites are becoming more frequent. It appears that Albanian extremists working on the creation of an "ethnically clean" Kosovo see the protectorate's remaining Serbs as the most serious obstacle to the realisation of that long wished-for goal.

In many ways they are right to believe that not a single Serb will ever agree to live in a quasi state in which basic human rights and dignity depend on ethnicity and religion.

Will the international community continue its practices of ignoring problems and tolerating Albanian extremist whims? Or will it begin to challenge extremism and ethnic discrimination?

One thing is quite clear - the truth cannot be ever hidden forever, especially not from the omniscient Almighty.

The American military magazine "Stars and Stripes" recently published a story on the success of the KFOR mission in Eastern Kosovo, especially in Klokot. The message of the article was that the security situation has improved so drastically that further military presence is hardly needed.

The truth of this text could be seen on July 31, not in ink and letters, but in a series of explosions in which five solidly-built Serb houses were destroyed and two American soldiers almost killed.

Disbanding of checkpoints, visible protective military infrastructure around Serb enclaves - especially churches and monasteries - and reducing the number of convoy escorts for Serbian people will surely not bring improvement by themselves. They have to be accompanied by concrete actions against troublemakers.

The present strategy is profoundly wrong and will not create better conditions of life but will, as we can now see, encourage even more armed terrorist gangs to cleanse even that small number of Serbs who have survived the last three years thanks to KFOR protection.

The roof of a house cannot be built without strong foundations and solid walls. Showing so-called "multi-ethnic" Kosovo institutions to cover up a virtually mono-ethnic and repressive society looks more like a grotesque attempt to build a house on sand.

Reasonable Serbs would support multi-ethnic institutions as long as they don't risk death attending them. True democracy cannot be built as long as the post-war persecutors of the Serb and Roma population sit in parliament assured of their political immunity.

Perhaps more than ever, it is evident that the international policy of tacit approval of ethnic discrimination has to be replaced by a more constructive one of building an economically and politically stable and sustainable multi-ethnic society. Running away from problems is definitely not the way to achieve this goal.

Father Sava Janjic serves in the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren