Thursday, 27 October 2005

Kosovo Independence Army: the Real Kosovo Liberation Army?

KFOR have acknowledged the existence of the Kosovo Independence Army (KIA) or Army for the Independence of Kosovo (AIK); its base is in Decan/Decani, where the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) had a stronghold led by former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj.

I thought that the KIA could have been to the KLA what the Real Irish Republican Army (Real IRA) is to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), particularly given its base is in Decan; but I also thought it could be a separate, parallel organisation - and, given the partiality of those linking them, I wouldn't discount that possibility.

The Russian news service, Pravda, has relayed that a Serbian newspaper, Vecernje Novosti, has alleged that Ramush Haradinaj is the leader of the KIA, what it terms a "terrorist army", which has vowed to take up the KLA's struggle if Kosovo isn't given independence, though all its struggle has consisted of so far, apparently, is robbing locals and injuring and killing Kosovo police officers because of their ethnic identity. These are criminal and terrorist acts: if the KIA are responsible for the robberies, they are criminals; and if the KIA are responsible for the assaults and murders, they are terrorists.

Decan is patrolled by Italian KFOR; Commander General Giuseppe Valoto would only say that "if there are armed groups, we are here to investigate them" and that "anyone who is involved in such things is a criminal and is not working in the interest of his or her people".

The Serbian Government Coordinating Centre for Kosovo and Metohija's former president, Nebojsa Covic, has said that he "imagine[s] that Haradinaj and his team wanted to show that they are needed, to calm this group, which they probably hired themselves". He described it as "just added pressure" on KFOR and UNMIK, who were "frightened to begin with" and on the "Serbian and non-Albanian population".

Nebojsa Covic has counselled that, "if there is no independence, then there will be conflict, a new war"; his advice is to "work quickly and arrest these people", though it's unclear whether it's grounded in an objection to the method of violence or to the principle of self-determination.

In a historical sense, Kosovo did have autonomy before Slobodan Milosevic illegally revoked it, but, if his act of removal of autonomy were illegal because Yugoslavia's was not a democratically-elected government, so was Josip Broz Tito's of conferral of autonomy.

In a practical sense, all of the citizens of Kosovo would be safer in a truly democratic, independent Kosovo, but appeasement of those who commit human rights abuses can never succeed, abandoning the victims to their fate, reinforcing the violators' choice to employ violence and encouraging others to do the same; moreover,

In a political sense, Kosovans ought to have the same opportunity for self-determination that other former Yugoslav communities have had; the majority of Kosovans of all communities want a peaceful, democratic, multicultural Kosovo and the majority of Kosovans want that Kosovo to be independent too.

We ought to respect that choice and to enable them to make it and in order to do so, all Kosovan citizens need to have the security and freedom essential to peace, democracy and multiculturalism; the international administration is doing what it needs to and trying to crack down on extremists from every community, but between its unpopularity and their power, it's only just keeping control.

It will only get a mandate from the vast majority of those it protects if it gives them status - independence - so that all citizens benefit from reconstruction and development, so that Albanians and their "allies" do not have to fear the return of Serbian government control and so that the Serbs and their "allies" do not have to fear the continuation of Albanian nationalist violence.

Independence: will undermine any of the support the communities' extremists have and all of the rhetoric they use; will allow the administration to gather support from communities and crack down on the extremists as the criminals they are; and will enable the communities to move towards a peaceful, democratic, multicultural future.

Participants have been afforded anonymity. Formatting has been changed to make it easy to read.

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