Serbia + 1 more

ACT Sitrep Balkans Appeal EUBK01 - No 5/00

Situation Report
Originally published
Balkans Situation Report as of 27 March 2000
General situation


General Klaus Reinhardt, with one month left as KFOR Commander before the handover to EUROCORPS and a new Commander, spoke to Welt am Sonntag about KFOR's achievements since its mission began:

"Chaos prevailed when we arrived", he said. "There were no shops, restaurants, food items. Hospitals were not working, schools were closed, and so was the university. The streets of Pristina are full of cars today, schools are open and the university is functioning".

When asked about continuing insecurity in Mitrovica, Reinhardt blamed unemployment, currently at 85 percent, but echoing Kouchner's sentiments of the week before, he added that the main purpose of KFOR had been to establish 'peaceful coexistence,' not multi-ethnicity. Reinhardt later rebutted the latest allegations that the Kosovo Protection Corps members were involved in criminal activities. He drew attention to the disciplinary code within the TMK which was the mechanism to deal with those individuals who violate the rules.

Reinhardt's bullishness about the success of KFOR's mission in Kosovo was in stark contrast to a recent report on 'Kosova: A Year After', by the American Agency for Analytic and Consultative Services. The paper claims that NATO failed to fulfill its goals in Kosovo, which were to control crime and to fight against weapons and drugs smuggling. The agency assesses that the peacekeeping mission of the Alliance has failed, in that violence in Kosovo continues and NATO is successively losing control, with NATO troops being attacked by both ethnic Albanians and the Serb minority. The reports' authors further claim that the Kosovo Liberation Army has not been effectively demilitarised, and some of its elements present a threat to the international forces:

"The KLA is indebted to Balkan drug organisations which have funnelled the transfer of money and weapons to the guerillas before and after the conflict. Kosovo is the heart of drug trafficking, which comes from Afghanistan, through Turkey to the Balkans and then onwards to western Europe. For the KLA, the Balkans road isàalso a channel to infiltrate weapons into the Balkans."

Meanwhile, the UN envoy for human rights in Yugoslavia has criticised the international community's mission in Kosovo, describing it as 'chaotic' and 'a total failure' so far. Jiri Dienstbier told AFP that the UN and the peacekeeping forces in the province have no clearly defined aims:

"We have UN Resolution 1244 saying that Kosovo is part of Yugoslavia but nobody wants to confirm it and say that it is a solution and that Kosovo remains part of Yugoslavia", said Deinstbier. "On the other hand, nobody wants to say that Kosovo will be independent".

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has published witness statements documenting 96 cases of rape by ethnic Serbs (members of the security forces) of ethnic Albanian women during the war in Kosovo. HRW state that the rapes were part of an organised effort to terrorise civilians, and called for those responsible to be brought to justice:
"These are not occasional incidents committed by a few crazy men", said Regan Ralph, Executive Director of the Women's Rights Division at HRW. "Rape was used as an instrument of war in Kosovo, and it should be punished as such".

In Mitrovica inter-ethnic relations between Serb and Kosovar Albanians remain poor, with the security situation currently described by KFOR as 'extremely hostile'. KFOR has increased the number of troops present due to recent incidents which have included snipers causing injury to both French KFOR and local civilians, the arrests of numerous armed Albanians and Serbs, and frequent night time automatic weapons fire. KFOR states that it plans to maintain a strong presence in Mitrovica to include foot and vehicle patrols, static guards and vehicle checkpoints. The curfew continues from 22.00 to 06.00.

The international administration in Kosovo are to establish 'zones of trust' in Mitrovica, inside of which "it will be made possible for people of all nationalitiesto move freely and communicate", it was announced on 21 March by KFOR's Northern Sector spokesman Patrick Chanlieau.

The trust zones will encompass the centre of Mitrovica and the parts of the town near the bridges, where a ban on organised gatherings, protest rallies, parking cars without a special licence and the use of radios will be imposed. The "zone of confidence" borders will be marked by posters, so that citizens from both sides of Mitrovica will be aware of entering.

There will be NATO military exercises carried out in Mitrovica area between 27 March and 3 April. Local observers think it possible that this may stimulate some civil unrest.

In Dragodan, Pristina, the ACT CafT hosted the chief commander of the Kosovo Police Force, Nuredin Ibishi-Leka for an open debate. Mr. Ibishi-Leka spoke about UNMIK's failure to grant the Kosovo Police Service adequate responsibility, and told his audience of the restrictions of trying to operate a police service without an adequate judiciary. However he was generally positive about the international community's involvement in Kosovo and was encouraged that the the first intake of civilian police is already fully trained and working.

Also speaking in the ACT CafT this month was Edita Tahari of the Democratic League of Kosova and who was a member of the Albanian delegation to the Rambouillet Conference. She traced the problems of the province back to 1913 when territories were divided. At this point, she said, Kosovo should have had the right to self-determination. She said that she did not condone, but was not surprised by, acts of and wishes for revenge on Serbs by Albanians. While reconciliation is not realistic in the short-term, cooperation is a reachable goal; economic development and job opportunities will bring people together. The Serbs find themselves in an ambiguous position which they can only clarify by distancing themselves from Milosevic. She finished by saying that Kosovars haven't yet earned the right to independence û first the ethnic tensions have to be laid to rest.


EU diplomacy chiefs called on the opposition in FRY to "create with joint efforts a powerful and capable alternative to Milosevic's regime". They condemned "more and more harsh threats and attacks by Milosevic's regime on independent media and democratic opposition". Vesna Pesic, the former leader of the Serbian Civil Alliance (GSS) and director of the Centre for Anti-War Action, assesses that the current regime in Belgrade could fall more easily because of spontaneous or accidental events than by an organised action by the opposition. In an interview with Ljubljana daily Delo Pesic she condemned increasing violence by the authorities in Belgrade but also voiced fierce criticism over the disunity of the opposition in Serbia. She said that 'opportunism and fear' were dominant among the opposition leaders, and that this is especially true of Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) leader Vuk Draskovic. She said that Draskovic is 'scared and perhaps corrupted' and is ''practically under house arrest'. She added:

"The problem is that those parties do not want to unite into a single popular front, that is, into some kind of resistance movement".

Pesic regards early republic-level elections as being unlikely; the authorities will probably organise local and federal elections next autumn.

The international anti-censorship organisation Article 19 has called on world leaders to take urgent diplomatic measures to prevent new attacks on independent media in Serbia. A statement from the centre describes closures and financial sanctions against publishers and broadcasters as a warning signal that once the non-government media in Serbia had been hushed up the authorities would settle scores with the rest of the pro-democracy forces in the country.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban last Thursday opened a two-day international summit on the role of media and local self-management in Serbia. Like Vesna Pesic, he finds no visible cooperation of democratic forces in Yugoslavia, which, he stated, is a problem not only for Yugoslavia itself but for the international community which is trying to assist in the democratisation of the country.


The blockade between Serbia and Montenegro is being strictly enforced, affecting both republics equally. Only a limited amount of industrial materials is allowed to enter Serbia from Montenegro, but no trucks are entering Montenegro from Serbia.

Elections in the Montenegrin municipalities of Herceg Novi and Podgorica have been set for June 2000.

Komersant reports that Milosevic has initiated a whole range of measures that cannot be construed as anything other than preparations for war in order for him to maintain power, and in Montenegro there is now a military brigade whose role it is to incite conflicts. The Russian paper states that "a brigade with a special role has been created, which is not under the the jurisdiction of the army Commander-in-Chief nor the Defence Minister, but rather under the authority of the federal Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic."

If open conflict erupts between Montenegro and Serbia, 15,000 Montenegrin police and the entire democratic movement would defend the Republic, said Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, speaking to Der Spiegel. Djukanovic said that relations between the two Republics have reached a new and alarming level of danger, and that it was anticipated in Montenegro that Milosevic's next step would be to attempt to further destabilise the region. Djukanovic stressed that Montenegro will not hold the referendum for independence during this year, because such a move would further jeopardise the political stability of the region.

The president of the International Crisis Group, Gareth Evans, has called for fast and decisive international support for Montenegro: " The international community must not make the same mistakes with Montenegro that it made with BiH and Kosovo,and this means that, with no more wavering, concrete and decisive action needs to be implemented", said Evans at a presentation at Washington Peace Institute.

It is currently estimated that more than 78,000 working age adults of Montenegro's workforce are unemployed; of this amount, over a third have been unemployed for five years or more. However, life is difficult even for the 114,595 people between the ages of 18 and 60 officially registered as 'employed'; the average wage in Montenegro in December 1999 (the most recent official figures available) was just $69. Making the situation worse, an estimated 21% of those considered employed have not received a full salary for at least six months; many of these 'under-employed' receive a meagre $34 each month, the minimum salary allowable by law.



UNMIK has initiated a Housing Task Force to plan the transition of housing rehabilitation and reconstruction from UNHCR to the Joint Interim Administration Structure (JIAS). The task force is charged with developing coordination mechanisms and plans for the reconstruction of housing units in Kosovo.

The Standards Working Group of the Housing Task Force will seek to harmonise the approach of donors, agencies and institutions involved in housing reconstruction. ACT/UMCOR will play an important role as a committee member of the Group.

ACT/UMCOR is planning operations in the villages of Shipol and Kostova. The goal is to provide shelter materials (roof timbers and tiles, doors and windows) for self-help reconstruction of up to three hundred homes.

ACT/CA is holding discussions with representatives of Cifllak village, Rahovec municipality, to select 31 houses for reconstruction. All building work is done on a self-help basis except for the flats under renovation in Malisheva. ACT/CA now has an enhanced capacity with the two engineers who joined the project in February preparing high quality technical assessments as well as monitoring and advising on building progress. CA says thanks to the EU for all its support!
ACT/UMCOR has received 400 instruction booklets on how to rid one's home of the smell of smoke. The donation was from the United States Office of Transition Initiatives for the beneficiaries of shelter programmes.



The Hydrema flail arrived at HQ in Hereq last Monday, and the ACT/DCA team is planning to undertake mechanical mine clearance around Irznitz School. They will also begin to use dog teams, which will eventually allow Save the Children to commence with reconstructing the school. Two UXOs and two anti-personnel mines were found, and destroyed in-situ.

At Pepsh 34 anti-tank mines were located and destroyed. It has been necessary to maintain a 24 hour guard around the minefield to stop unauthorised entry, particularly by children on holiday from school. The mines in the area require a pressure of one hundred kg and are therefore seen as ''safe' by the local population. However, antilifting devices and booby traps may be attached resulting in tragedy for those involved.

Mine awareness: the team met UN MACC staff in Pristina to coordinate a 'child-to-child' programme. Mines awareness has now been handed over to local staff. Locals have also been trained in leadership, training methods, safety and first aid.
Tragically, there have been two recent mine accidents, resulting in three deaths. The mines awareness cell will undertake further sessions in the neighbourhood where these occurred.




ACT/UMCOR's project to rehabilitate cattle farms in Bare, Bajgore, Vidishiq and Koshtove, planned as part of the 2000 Appeal, has had fifty per cent of its funding approved by 'Chain of Solidarity'. The other fifty per cent waits on the decision of the Swiss Government, to be made on 6 April.

The overall goal of this project is to contribute to livestock recovery and development: the programme will provide young in-calf heifers to the most vulnerable families who lost all of their livestock during the conflict and who cannot afford to re-invest in new livestock without external support. The creation of a livestock revolving fund will increase the impact of the initial intervention so that more families can benefit from the original investment. In order to reach as many farmers as possible only one cow per beneficiary will be distributed and the 'passing on the gift' approach used, meaning that those who receive a cow are required to pass on one female offspring to another family in need. Many UMCOR livestock projects are based on this highly successful approach, which has proven effective under many different circumstances. In addition to ACT/UMCOR and the families themselves, local private providers of animal feed, supplements and veterinary services will also be involved.




The ACT/NCA Team has finished cleaning around 80 wells in Reka village and will contiinue in Trsten village.


Staff report that the sun keeps on shining which makes all outside work a lot easier! Daily production is improved and also the quality of work. The two teams in Decani have cleaned around eighty wells in Shaptej village.
In Skenderaj municipality municipality a corpse was found near a well. The body, which had previously been covered by snow, was handed over to local authorities.


Around 50 wells have been cleaned in the Malisheve-Rahovec area.



The ACT/NCA Decani office is continuing to repair and extend existing water lines. In Voksh village 18 new water connections have been established. Plans have been made to connect new houses in Strellc village. In Junic village bathroom rehabilitation has been carried out.

Volunteers are sought by ACT/NCA to help with repairs in Isnic village.

ACT/NCA will apply to HEKS for external funding to restart the diving team. The team will search for the bodies of missing persons in the Belo Drin river from Rakovina to the Albanian border.

The ACT/NCA Promotion Group is giving advice to families concerning sanitation and personal hygiene and collecting information about the current situation of the water supply. In addition it is distributing food and non-food items to the most vulnerable.

The Bajram Curri School in Dumnic e Eperme village, Vushtri, has been equipped with a new spring, reservoir and water pipeline. Emin Duraku School, Gjegjice village, Gllogovc, has been given a new spring, pipeline, water fountain and heater. Emin Duraku, which has 600 pupils in Dragobil village, Rahovec, was reopened on 7 March (Teachers' Day) after joint rehabilitation efforts by ACT/NCA, ACT/UMCOR, USAID and Dutch KFOR.



Thanks to ACT/NCA, Sunny Hill Music School was reopened at the end of February, with a big celebration. Dardania Basketball School is up and running. Material and financial support for both these projects would be welcomed.
In Bare and Bajora prefabs have been delivered by ACT/UMCOR for the youth and women's groups. The units will provide meeting places and construction will begin when the weather improves. The local youth groups themselves will erect the prefabs.

Local empowerment might be affected by the planting season, as this is taking participants away from meetings and workshops. However, more returnees to the villages may compensate for this.



ACT/IOCC distributions in Zajecar were carried out in cooperation with the Red Cross and local NGO Self Supported Mothers, which distributed aid to over three hundred local people whose monthly income is less than US$15. In Knjazevac, minimum salaries are around US$10.

From 6 to 10 March, IOCC Belgrade monitored the humanitarian aid that was distributed to refugees and IDPs in private accommodation in the regions of Zajecar, Bor and Knjazevac. Refugees and IDPs living in private accommodation are rarely able to cover monthly utilities expenses; a family needs around $75 for renting an apartment and to pay bills. Many of those interviewed expressed a wish to move to collective centres where the residents receive humanitarian aid on a regular basis.

All beneficiaries are stressing the importance of continued aid which will allow them to spend some of their limited money on much-needed items other than food and hygiene materials.

IOCC is receiving more and more requests for humanitarian aid from the local population; in the municipality of Bor over five thousand people are living below the poverty line. In addition, a great need for shoes, clothing, medicines and orthopedic appliances has been recorded by IOCC staff.

IOCC has distributed family food parcels and family hygiene parcels to over 150 collective centres, many of which are in abysmal condition, in eastern and southern Serbia. In the 'Hotel' Jagodina, for example, diseases like lice and hepatitis have surfaced due to the very bad hygiene conditions.



Presheve, Medvegje and Bunjanoc are municipalities of the former Yugoslavia which are referred to by the Albanians as Eastern Kosova, and by the Serbs and the international community as Southern Serbia. The entire area has been touted in the local and international media as the next Balkans war zone.

Dobrosin is a small and unremarkable village near Bujanoc which has the misfortune to fall into a so-called 'buffer zone' between Kosovo and Serbia. Driving out of Gjilan, the last town in Kosovo proper before the buffer zone, one encounters two U.S. KFOR check points, the first desultory, the second thorough. The latter marks the entrance to Dobrosin, where, in common with other settlements in this disputed region, up to 80 percent of the (mainly ethnic- Albanian) population have been displaced from their homes ûparticularly women, children and the elderly. This transposed population says that the Serbian police who removed themselves from Kosovo last June with the arrival of NATO have now based themselves in these three municipalities, and are harassing the local Albanians. The locals also say that the Serb paramilitary organisation Crna Ruka ('Black Hand') is active in the area. This organisation is widely feared as it is held responsible for a bloody massacre of Albanian civilians in Peja during the war.

Those who remain in Dobrosin tell of how, on 16 January this year, Serbian police entered the village and summarily executed two Albanian brothers who were driving their tractor through the village. The next day the villagers held a funeral for their massacred neighbours. A contingent of men turned up, dressed in camofluage uniforms with a new insignia that proclaimed them to be members of the Liberation Army of Presheva, Medvegja and Bujanoc (UCPMB). This was the first public appearance of this rebel militia and caused many bystanders to recollect the funeral two years ago of an Albanian professor in the village, also reportedly murdered by Serbian forces, which was marked by the first ever public appearance of the KLA.

The remaining villagers in Dobrosin stress that UCPMB is a grassroots movement formed by the men of the village, determined to defend their homes from any further Serbian attack. Whether this is actually the case is unclear: the rebels have been denounced as provocative extremists by both the UN (Kofi Annan) and the Albanian Government. However it is inarguable that the military agreement drawn up between KFOR and the Yugoslav military last June has left this village, and others like it within the five km-wide buffer zone, intensely vulnerable. The agreement states that only Serbian civilian police can have access to the buffer zone, but not the military. But it doesn't define how many Serbian police can move at once, how many munitions can be deployed there against the civilian population û the only absolute restrictions are on tanks, heavy artillery, and military uniforms. The Serbian police have observed these, presumably not wanting KFOR on their backs.

The majority of the villagers became caught in between Serb intimidation and the provocation of their own self-declared protectors. This is why many of them chose to flee. And both the local Albanians and KFOR agree that any escalation of the conflict would go only in favour of Milosovic, who fights to stay in power by the unreliable and unsophisticated means of whipping up nationalistic sentiment through confrontations such as that reportedly staged in Dobrosin on 16 January.
On 24 March, after nine hours of talks, UCPMB signed an agreement with representatives of the Prosperity Democratic Party of Kosova and Chris Dell, head of the US Office in Pristina, to renounce armed conflict and work for a political solution through cooperation with the international community by establishing the Political Council of Presheva, Bujanoc and Medvegja. The head of this newly established Council called on the international community to step up pressure on Milosovic, to withdraw all forces from southern Serbia and to end the violence, enabling people to return to their homes. Now the ball is in Milosovic's court; will he agree with the approach of the UCPMB and the international community to solve the dispute by political means? Some observers think it unlikely. It has been suggested that what he really wants is to force the Kosovo administration into a position whereby it is willing to swap troubled, mineral-rich Mitrovica for the ordinary land and homes of the Albanians of Southern Serbia.


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 Orthodox 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

ACT is a worldwide alliance of churches and related agencies meeting human Need through coordinated emergency response. The ACT Coordinating Office is based with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Switzerland.