J. David Galland: A Macedonian Retrospective

While the International War Crimes Tribunal gloats over its latest quarry, former Yugoslavia President Slobodan Milosevic, who it has charged with just about every crime except playing hooky from school, the endemic pattern of ethnic violence in the Balkans has entrenched itself for another cold winter of discontent. Which of the former provinces of what was once Yugoslavia remains is in the forefront? It is still Macedonia. You remember Macedonia, don't you? Let me jog your memory a bit from 1999: peace, cease-fire, disarmament and mutual respect for differing ethnic groups, just to mention a few key points. I am sure the reader can reflect on the signing of the agreement, only three months ago. As well, one can recall many of the critical provisions of the Ohrid peace agreement, signed just three months ago, that aimed to save Macedonia from abysmal lawlessness. Perhaps you remember that under its provisions, hostilities would come to a rapid stop and a cease-fire would ensue, NATO troops would come in for 30 days, and 30 days only with the Albanian rebels then turning in their weapons. Next, Albanian citizens of Macedonia, largely in the Presevo Valley, would then be treated equally and be given more rights by the Macedonian-dominated parliament.

What has Macedonia, as a country, or as I predicted last July, a NATO protectorate, accomplished? Not much. Since the marionette strings were pulled taunt on the hapless President Boris Trajkovski, whom NATO and the West bought out for a song, things haven't changed much. That is, if any of the current reports, news stories and tales of terror that emerge into the world media, are correct. Only days ago, heavily armed rebels, believed to be the well rested remnants of the UCK, took as many as 70 people hostage in the Macedonian village of Semsovo, which is a few kilometers northeast of Tetovo. A few hours before this latest challenge to rural tranquility, a group of about a dozen people, were abducted on a main road in the area. One of the unfortunate ones was Zlate Todorovski, the director of the Macedonian language television station in Tetovo. Local police officials, speaking on terms of anonymity, insisted that the perpetrators were not former UCK members. Even the former UCK commander in the area assured Western sources that this was not the work of the now, disbanded rebel group. These abductions brought an immediate response from the NATO-backed police forces. Scores of police in armored personnel carriers streamed into the area around Tetovo, which is viewed, locally, as additional provocation. Resistance to the advancing constabulary was swift on the part of the, "not former" UCK rebels. Between Semsovo and Trebos, northwest of Tetovo, a police convoy was ambushed and three policemen were killed, leaving numerous others wounded. The following day, a running gun battle ensued between Macedonian Police and suspected ethnic Albanian rebels near the village of Preljubiste.

This past Sunday a powerful explosion rocked another city in northwestern Macedonia. A spokesman for the new Albanian National Army was quick to take credit for causing the explosion and promised more similar actions during the next week. Clearly, these incidents and the escalation or violence can be viewed as a response to the political foot-dragging by Macedonian leaders in Skopje on the promised issues of Albanian autonomy and equality within Macedonia. Last week, the ever confident and self-serving NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson, while visiting Slovenia, stated that he believed the situation to be stabilized and he urged all involved to show restraint. Robertson's declaration followed an apparently illuminating conversation with Boris Trakjovski, the Macedonian president and German Brigadier General Heinz-Georg Keerl, the NATO Commander in Macedonia. In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the world has largely turned its collective focus to issues other than Macedonia, particularly the ongoing war in Afghanistan. At the same time, Macedonia still simmers with violence waiting to explode. The Balkans continues its ever-familiar downward spiral of violence and hatred, still quite capable of ensnaring the United States and its allies in yet another bloodbath.

J. David Galland

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