Creating a new order in Kosovo
Ethnic Albanians demand jobs back, while KFOR and UN try to bring
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's face stares down smugly from a picture frame in Dusan Simic's office. The flags of Yugoslavia and Serbia, to which Kosovo still legally belongs, flank his desk.
Despite the trappings of his office, the mayor of the Kosovar capital, Pristina, is one of many Serbs here with an insecure future. With the arrival of KFOR peacekeepers, ethnic Albanians are demanding back jobs.
Since Mr. Milosevic lifted Kosovo's autonomy in 1989, ethnic Albanians have been kicked out of leading positions in government, education, health care, and virtually every other institution that made the province function. In a boycott of the Serbian clampdown, Albanians held their own elections and set up their own schools and clinics in private homes.
Now, the tables have turned. The international community is working to stabilize such factors as the exodus of Serbian civilians and last week's surge of the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
United Nations Resolution 1244 places Kosovo's civil authority in the hands of the international community, superseding Mr. Simic's legitimacy as mayor of Pristina.
But the UN machinery has ground into action at a slow pace, frustrating Simic and his deputies. "As we speak, the KLA could come in here," says Simic. "There is a lot of uncertainty."
Currently the advance team of the UN mission in Kosovo consists of some 50 people who are assessing the whole range of tasks that the civil administration will undertake. Sergio Vieira de Mello, the acting head of the mission, calls the job ahead one of the greatest challenges to the UN since its founding.
In the coming days, he will announce the civil administrators for Kosovo's five districts and 29 municipalities.
The police, judiciary, public administration, media development, health, and human services all fall under the UN mandate. When the UN mission is complete, it will number 5,000 people, including 3,000 UN civilian police. Many tasks such as training judges or establishing democratic institutions are expected to be assigned to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
At the moment, however, international civilian organizations still have a small presence in Kosovo, and impatient Kosovo Albanians are pounding on doors to reclaim jobs they lost in the past 10 years.
"This is the first time since 1990 that I've stepped inside this building," says Abdulatif Fusha, an ethnic Albanian doctor who returned to Pristina University Hospital on Friday. In August 1990, he says, police expelled him from his classroom as he was giving an exam to medical students.
Dozens of Albanian doctors appeared at the hospital to demand that they be allowed to return to work. The World Health Organization and KFOR mediated tense discussions with the current Serbian administration.
"It's normal that the Albanians want their jobs back - and that Serbs keep theirs," says Zoran Soskic, a Serbian intern at the hospital. "But this is not the way to settle the issue. We have KFOR now, but they did nothing to establish contact between the two sides earlier."
Mr. Soskic and his brother Vukman, both Serbian refugees from Croatia, say they may soon be on the run again. Like many Serbs remaining in Kosovo, they voice skepticism that KFOR can provide adequate security for them.
"It's difficult to understand how somebody who has been trying to kill me for the last three months can protect me now," says Jovan Jovicevic, referring to the NATO airstrikes leading up to the peace agreement.
An ethnic Serbian professor of physical chemistry at Pristina University, Mr. Jovicevic moved to the Kosovar capital in 1992. But now, he says, there are too few Serbian students to give final exams.
Because of the ethnic Albanians' boycott of official institutions, two ethnically based universities have existed side by side for years. But the turn in events is changing this system.
"The Albanians are making a point to enter each and every institution they can," says Jovicevic. "If you ask me if my head will be on my shoulders in a week, I can't say I'm sure."
Tales of kidnappings and killings by the KLA have already motivated thousands of Serbs to flee Kosovo. Officials from international organizations stress that the aim of the UN mission is to create a Kosovo with representation of all ethnic groups on every level of society.
Lt. Gen. Michael Jackson, commander of the KFOR implementation force, echoed this sentiment yesterday. He appealed for Serbian civilians who had fled the province to return, and he promised increased security to protect them from attacks by ethnic Albanians.
General Jackson also said yesterday he was confident that the KLA would honor the demilitarization agreement it signed early Monday. Under the agreement, which is effective immediately, the KLA must leave its checkpoints, halt military and security activities, and put its weapons in storage sites verified by NATO.
Susan Manuel, UN spokeswoman in Pristina, says a flight of Serbs is problematic not only on humanitarian and moral grounds, but also because they are leaving with their expertise. "This is a transition period, but it can't be allowed to be a transition period that sees another exodus or the seizure of authority by an armed party to the conflict," she says.
Still, the success of the UN mission will depend on the cooperation of all forces in Kosovo, and disarmed KLA fighters will not be disqualified from applying for the new police force. Currently the UN is putting out calls for skilled Albanians with experience as civil administrators, technicians, teachers, and doctors, says Ms. Manuel.
At the same time, a UN disaster assessment team is in the field examining public utilities - the nuts and bolts of a functioning society. In Pristina, most ethnic Albanians have been deprived of their phone lines, and the water supply is still sporadic.
"Albanians have been working in public service before 1991 - so they can simply return to their jobs. We will not face a vacuum in the infrastructure," says Edita Tahiri, special envoy of Ibrahim Rugova, a leader of the Kosovar shadow state.
As its support has grown in the past year, the KLA has challenged the claim to power of Mr. Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK). Although the two parties are still discussing how they will cooperate, Ms. Tahiri says that any Kosovar government must be seen as a substructure of the international civil administration.
Elections, she says, will not take place until a substantial number of refugees have returned, the battered ethnic Albanian news media have been normalized, and the proper democratic structures have been established.
Yesterday an official in Bonn, Germany, announced that leaders from the Group of Eight industrial nations would attend a Balkan stability conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia, next month.