In Mitrovica on Friday hundreds of Albanians pelted French soldiers with stones and bottles on the grounds that NATO peace keepers had failed to prevent the deaths of at least nine Kosovo Albanians. 24 Serbs were also injured. Ten UN vehicles were burned. Many of the estimated four thousand ethnic Albanians living on the Serbian side in the divided city fled to the Albanian side. An overnight curfew has been imposed.
One Albania sniper was shot by KFOR forces Sunday; two others were reportedly were captured. Two French soldiers were wounded. Albanian press reports that Serb snipers stay on top of buildings in both parts of Mitrovica, provoking and threatening Albanians. There are new accusations of Serb ethnic cleansing on the northern side.
Monday was declared a Day of Mourning in Mitrovica but the prospects for reconciliation seem to be farther away than ever. Many Albanians call for French KFOR to leave Kosovo. At best, they see them as ineffective, at worst, pro-Serbian. Representatives of the political parties of Mitrovica wrote a letter to KFOR Commander Klaus Reinhardt which stated that the Northern Multinational Brigade, which is under French command, has failed to meet its obligations. They called for reinforcement of the international troops with British, German, Danish and US soldiers. Meanwhile, in the Serbian media the Commander of Multinational Forces Sector North, Gen. Pierre de Saqui de Sannes, said that Friday's events had been directly aimed against KFOR. 'Molotov cocktails and rocks were hurled at French troops and armoured vehicles.' He said at a news conference in southern Mitrovica on Saturday.
Head of the civilian mission of the United Nations, Bernard Kouchner, was reported by unnamed 'associates' as being dissatisfied by the conditions in Kosovo and considering leaving his post. He has just cut short a fundraising mission to Japan in order to get personally involved the efforts to discontinue the negative developments in Mitrovica.
US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright stated that a serious crisis has developed in Kosovo because the international organisations here have not fulfilled their promises to provide adequate material assistance and help with the rebuilding of Kosovo. She said: "The UN mission in Kosovo cannot rebuild the electricity system, cannot provide security, cannot prepare elections and revitalise agriculture only by giving promises. The UN needs to possess the necessary equipment to assist the people to build society and to start living a normal life."
NATO has announced that 'EUROCORPS' is going to take over from NATO in Kosovo. The Corps will be comprised of troops from France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Luxemburg.
Thorkild Hoyer, Director of ACT Kosovo, released a statement Monday January 3, saying that in the early hours of Sunday morning DM611,000 was stolen from the ACT offices in Pristina, when thieves forced their way into the building and made off with the entire safe. A reward for information leading to the arrest and charging of those involved, and another for recovery of the money, has been offered.
Serbia & Montenegro
The Chief Prosecutor of the International War Crimes Tribunal, Carla Del Ponte, has urged NATO to set up a task force to hunt down criminals in the former Yugoslavia. 'It seems to me that they [NATO] are only apprehending war criminals if they happen to stumble over them', she told Danish newspaper Politiken on Sunday.
29 Albanians were released last Monday from the Pozarevac prison in Serbia. Most of them were from Suhareka (near Prizren).
The UN Human Rights Commission's special rapporteur on FRY, Jiri Dienstbier, has recommended that the sanctions against Serbia be lifted, as has Greek Foreign Minister Yorgos Papandreu. However Madeleine Albright has urged the EU not to suspend sanctions.
The US has called on Albanians to correct the bad governance and corruption in Albania. Albanian Foreign Minister, Paskal Milo, and the US Undersecretary of State, Thomas Pickering, confirmed during a meeting last Sunday the readiness of both governments to improve bilateral relations between the two countries. "We will continue to support you in the future, not only politically, but economically and socially as well, " said Pickering.
SHELTER / WINTERISATION
Ice and snowfall have made village roads slippery, slowing down distributions. Communications are also still problematic, with no satellite phone/fax connections for Mitrovica or Decani. The only means of communication is by intermittent landline to/from Mitrovica.
ACT/LWF are about to start contracting building materials for reconstruction. International suppliers have been asked to submit tenders for building materials.
The ACT-UMCOR shelter programmes are continuing slowly. Both Rahovec and Mitrovica are still expecting more materials for distribution; delivery of construction materials to Kosovo from Bosnia continues to be difficult.
Suppliers are often unable or unwilling to make the trip through Montenegro, due to insecurity. Communications remain difficult because of poor and damaged telecommunications infrastructure. Satellite phones are the only reliable form of communication. Inter-ethnic hostilities between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians remain intense. It is well-nigh impossible to work cooperatively with the two communities in the Mitrovica area. It would have been useful to have a rapid procurement process to assist all ACT shelter activities - more houses would have been completed.
Poor weather and road conditions have disrupted all programme activities. Roads are particularly bad in Malisheva municipality. Timber and roof tiles have been distributed by the Rahovec operation in the villages of Brestovc and Dragobil. Roof tiles, ridge caps, lathes and timber have been received in Mitrovica for Bare and Bajora, but winter weather has hindered their distribution. The 1999 programme will continue in 2000 until all materials have been received and distributed. Preparations are underway for the ACT/UMCOR Shelter Programme 2000. This will operate in the villages of Shipol and Kostova. The goal is to provide shelter materials (roof timber, tiles, doors and windows) for self help assistance. Efforts have been made at coordinating effectively with UNHCR and other NGOs in the Mitrovica area.
It has been proved to be a good decision to focus on two villages in each of the operating areas. This has benefited both the residents and the programme. It was also a good decision to focus on permanent hard roof reconstruction with a back-up of temporary winterisation materials, as the communities assisted appreciate the permanent nature of the reconstruction.
Nearly all the beneficiary families have been very willing to participate in the self-help reconstruction effort in their villages. Many families have personal resources available to pay workers to assist them in rebuilding their houses. The village leaders in both Bare and Bajgora were extremely helpful in organising the families and guiding them through all aspects of project implementation. More than 3000 families in the four target villages of Bare, Bajora, Dragobil and Brestovc are now able to live in their own (original) homes.
Christian Aid has said goodbye to Alex Rees, who has now returned to London. Neill Garvie from the Emergencies Unit at CA will be Acting Coordinator until 10 February. Stuart Bart Bryer has been appointed Programme Coordinator, and will take over from Neill on 10 February. Alan Strachan has been appointed Project Engineer, and arrived in-country on 3 February.
ACT/LWF activities have been at an almost complete standstill due to heavy snowfall and hard frost. Delivery trucks from Bosnia, Macedonia and elsewhere are stuck due to bad road conditions. Electricity supply has improved.
The ECHO temporary shelter programme is still waiting for beams and fillets from Solidarite. Once this is received and distributed then this component of the construction programme will be complete.
160 houses are now under roof.
The DCA-ACT Mine Action team have been checking and repairing winter marking and undertaking training in English, First Aid and radio communication. The Mines Awareness team have been setting up a programme for the Spring and Summer, which has involved visiting villages and arranging session with village elders. Representatives of the Mines Action Coordination Centre, part of UNMIK, have visited the operation and expressed satisfaction with it. A written accreditation will be issued. A relocation to a new office in Hereq has given the programme better working conditions and hence better productivity and efficiency.
FOOD SECURITY AND AGRICULTURE PROGRAMME
ACT/UMCOR are to assess and repair 30 tractors in 6 villages in the municipality of Vushtri. The agreement for this work was reached on 24 January at a meeting in Mitrovica with the Vushtri Agricultural Sector Representative. The municipality has just received 2200 vegetable seed packages from ACT/UMCOR and the local authorities have agreed to distribute these among its 62 villages. Another 10 tractors are being assessed in the village of Vidishiq. In Mitrovica municipality talks are ongoing with the village leaders with the aim of repairing 9 more tractors and distributing some plowing accessories.
UMCOR Food Security will no longer operate in Rahovac municipality. Christian Aid may implement agricultural programmes here as part of the 2000 Appeal.
Oscar Samso, the Agricultural Sector Coordinator, is hoping to arrange an agriculture cross-sector coordination meeting during the second or third week of February. CA, LSWF and MCIC will have individual meetings prior to the joint meeting, with the aim of finding ways of mutual cooperation under the ACT 2000 Appeal.
The ACT/UMCOR Food Security Coordinator is available to ACT members to offer his services as an agricultural and livestock specialist for the duration of the 2000 Appeal.
Local partner Macedonian Center for International Cooperation (MCIC) has completed 125 prefabricated houses for homeless villagers around Gjakova in southwestern Kosovo. The small houses, which are erected by the villagers themselves and given to the most vulnerable people still living in tents after last year's war, are part of a total of 1250 prefabs funded in Kosovo by Finn Church Aid, DanChurchAid, and the Norwegian Government. MCIC is also involved in reconstruction work on about 170 war-damaged houses in the same region.
A group of Danish students, sponsored by ACT member DanchurchAid, visited Macedonia in late January . During their stay, which was organised by MCIC, the students visited several Roma minority settlements throughout the country and spent a night with Roma families in Gostivar, western Macedonia. The Roma are also an oppressed minority in Denmark, and the students were gathering information to fundraise for MCIC support projects for Roma people.
MCIC organised five workshops for local NGOs to explain fundamental changes made to laws governing associations and non-profit organisations. All the workshops were filled to capacity. Under institutional reforms in Macedonia in the post-socialist year, control of NGOs has been taken away from the internal affairs ministry, but many smaller organisations were not aware that they would lose their status unless they re-registered and satisfied new requirements.
The Balkan winter has interrupted construction work on village water supply programmes in hilly Macedonia but preparatory work for new water projects continues in anticipation of spring. MCIC, implementing partner for these Christian Aid/ACT-funded projects, has brought running water to about 140 communities since the programme began in 1994. Another 20 projects are underway (although suspended until the ground thaws) and a similar number will be launched during the coming year.
OVERVIEW OF ACT RESPONSE
The six implementing partners in Kosovo are the Lutheran World Federation, Christian Aid,United Methodist Committee on Relief, Macedonian Center for International Cooperation, Norwegian Church Aid, and DanChurchAid. Together they constitute the ACT humanitarian response within Kosovo, working in the predominantly rural areas surrounding Mitrovica, Decani, Djakova, and Rahovic; and engaged in shelter and school rehabilitation, winterization, de-mining, well cleaning /water sanitation, agricultural and food assistance, and social community development.
Of the fourteen projects within the current ACT Appeal, four - Hungarian Interchurch Aid, Ecumenical Humanitarian Organization, the International Orthrodox Christian Charities and LWF - are focused on assisting internally displaced people, refugees, and others in need within the FRY areas of Vojvodina, Sandzak, Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo.
Submitted by Jane Connolly, Information Officer: ACT Balkans (phone ++381 38 549 187/188/190)
ACT Web Site address: http://www.act-intl.org