Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Containing a Kosovo Crisis A Special Envoy Could Help Free Albanians from Serb Apartheid

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Containing a Kosovo Crisis A Special Envoy Could Help Free Albanians from Serb Apartheid

Article excerpt

The long-predicted crisis in Kosovo seems fast approaching. Public anger, political stalemate, and international neglect are pushing the Albanian population in the Serb-dominated province toward a showdown with the regime of Serb President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade.

Pressures have been building for more than seven years since Belgrade's annexation of Kosovo.

President Milosevic created a system of apartheid in which the Albanian majority (estimated at more than 90 percent) became second-class citizens. A policy of ethnic discrimination and police repression prevails. The Albanians have responded not by taking up arms but by patiently constructing a parallel society and an alternative state structure. The Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), led by President Ibrahim Rugova, rejected violence and public protests in order to avoid Bosnian-type massacres. The Kosovars built one of the Balkans' most impressive civic societies, with an alternative educational system, welfare service, youth organizations, and even a spectrum of political parties. The Serbian administration misread the Kosovars' peaceful approach as weakness. Pacifism was mistaken for passivity. Police services continue to violate human rights with impunity. Twenty Albanians have been killed by security forces this year, and hundreds arrested or abused. Radicalized youths Public patience is nearing the breaking point as a result of several negative developments. First, Albanian youths are becoming radicalized as a result of police brutality. Ominously for Belgrade, about 80 percent of the Albanian population is under 30. Youths see few employment prospects and fear a serious economic decline as Belgrade continues to exploit the region's resources without investing in it. Second, Albanian leaders are under increasing criticism for failing to deliver a free Kosovo by peaceful means. LDK spokesmen fear one spark could ignite a mass revolt, with bloodshed worse than Bosnia's. The province is swarming with Yugoslav military, Serb special forces, police units, and heavily armed Serb residents in a sea of 2 million Albanians. The largest movement in opposition to the LDK - the Parliamentary Party, led by longtime political prisoner Adam Demaci - demands more open resistance to Belgrade. Mr. Demaci and others urge various nonviolent policies to disrupt Serbian rule and refocus world attention on Kosovo. But the LDK fears Milosevic could use peaceful protests as a pretext to stage a massacre or engage in full-scale "ethnic cleansing." Terrorism is on the rise in Kosovo. The clandestine Movement for the Liberation of Kosovo claims responsibility for the killing of several of Belgrade's Albanian collaborators. Among unemployed and desperate youths, the Liberation Movement may appear an attractive alternative to police intimidation and humiliation. …

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