What is going on now?
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Thousands Protested Against Milosevic Regime
Since the bombing ended in June 1999, thousands in Yugoslavia have protested against Milosevic1 for his part in the war and how it has decimated the people. Even Serb officers have slowly come forward with harrowing accounts2 of the attrocities that the Serb troops committed. Again, civilians are the ones who pay the heaviest price -- now it is the turn of the Serbs in Kosovo to be the victims.
In Serbia itself, society was facing more turmoil3 as opposition groups continued to grow against Milosevic and pro-democracy and anti-Milosevic rallies increased. However, the Milosevic response had seen a harsh crackdown, attempting to crush opponents4 and silence the independent media. But towards the end of September and beginning of October, 2000, national elections meant that Milosevic had lost power as a new president was voted in (Vojislav Kostunica). However, there is still a long way to go towards rebuilding.
(This link5 from a radio show called Democracy Now! provides a lot of insight, as they had a reporter on the streets on Yugoslavia at the time of the elections, and subsequent protests and riots that culminated in Milosevic backing down. Many other reporters for mainstream media have either reported from neighboring Montenegro, or, watched from afar, or, as a report from the previous link mentions, for CNN, their reporter was in a studio in London! One of the things discussed, importantly, has been the US involvement in the election campaign, in the form of enormous monetary assistance to the oppostion. It is of particular importance, because in most countries, this would not be permitted, and even in the US itself when there was an incident about possible Chinese involvement, there was enormous uproar. That is not to say that Milosevic is an innocent victim but to highlight that the US attempted to support an opposition that is favorable to them. It turns out though, that Kostunica is very much against recent US and NATO military and political actions and that a large part of the democracy that seems to have been won is due to the people of Serbia themselves demanding their rights.)
Almost "Peace" from NATO bombings, in May 1999
Peace and diplomacy itself is fraught with political agendas. A proposal in early May, 1999 from the G8 was a welcome step in the right direction, but as this article quickly points out, this particular peace proposal was a "fraud6". The wording was very vague to say the least, leaving it open to diverse interpretations. (As well as the previous link, this article which looks at the diplomatic scene7 in the Kosovo crisis so far, provides some revealing analysis.)
"Peace" Finally in June
The bombing finally stopped in June 1999. Yugoslavia accepted a peace plan8 proposed by Russia and NATO. While sounding promising, there have still been a number of issues left to consider9. For example:
- NATO insisted that the peace-keeping force be led by NATO, while Yugoslavia wants a UN-authored peace-keeping force.
- Kosovo autonomy or independence10 is still an issue even if NATO wants Kosovo to remain an autonomous part of Yugoslavia. There is deep distrust and even animosity between many Serbs and Ethnic Albanians. How peace will really be achieved over time, given this environment of destruction and animosity, remains to be seen. As Jonathan Power puts it11: "The Balkan map never made sense and it never made peace. If the western allies had only realized this before hostilities began, a grand deal perhaps could have been made and the war and the killing of many of the innocents avoided."
The peace deal resulted in western media calling this a victory for air power, but according to this transcript12 it was far from it, with most Serb military in tact and the number of military targets hit being very minimal, in the "few dozens".
- Around 4,600 Albanians killed by Yugoslavia since NATO bombing started
- increased resentment around the world due to US/NATO unilateral actions
- 800,000 refugees, (the UN reports that over 750,000 people have been repatriated, but that hides16 the fact that there are still problems with rebuilding the destroyed facilities and infrastructure, problems with housing and accomodation, food, relief, as well as many, many unexploded mines and cluster bombs.)
- a nation who has been bombed continuously for over 70 days that has seen the democratic opposition destroyed,
- environmental disasters making areas difficult to live in without risking health problems
- destroyed civilian infrastructure that would take many years to rebuild such that innocent civilians, as in Iraq, have to suffer the brunt of
- and so on.
This peace plan was almost stalled by NATO to try and sideline the UN once more (but the temporary breakdown was blamed on the Serbs17 by the mainstream media!). Anyway, since the initial plan was accepted the UN Security Council has voted to allow a UN civilian and international peace-keeping presence in Kosovo18. Carrying it out has been another story altogether, with Russia and various NATO nations not completely agreed on the best way to implement and control the process and overseeing of Serb withdrawal and peace restoration. The UN relief plan is also a complex19 operation.
Reprisals Against Serbs and Others in Kosovo -- New Refugees
Soon after the June peace deal was made, it was feared that many of the 200,000 Serb civilians would leave as refugees20 from the Kosovo area due to fears of attacks from KLA. That turned out to be pretty accurate, unfortunately, as the KLA started attacking and even killing Serbs as they leave. According to a Human Rights Watch report21, just seven weeks since the peace deal, 164,000 Serb refugees had fled Kosovo. And, according to that report, it wasn't just Serbs under attack, but also other ethnic minorities, like the Roma gypsies.
Amnesty International has also spoken out22 about the killings, abductions etc against ethnic minorities in Kosovo. In fact, about 6 months since the peace plan, in December 1999, Amnesty International repeated its concerns23 at the ongoing "[m]urder, abductions, violent attacks, intimidation, and house burning [that] are being perpetrated on a daily basis at a rate which is almost as high as it was in June  when the international UN civilian and security presence (KFOR) were initially deployed."
Twelve months since the above, throughout 2000 and into 2001, the violence has continued24, with militant factions of the former KLA venturing into parts of Serbia and ambushing Serb police. Killings have occurred on both sides, but NATO peace keeping forces seem unable to keep the peace.
Both NATO and Milosevic still have done little to help innocent people -- from Ethnic Albanians being cruelly driven out or massacred by Milosevic's regime, to the Serb civilians who have been bombed by NATO such that the infrastructure has been so badly destroyed that the effects will be felt for years to come. Ironic, that just like in Iraq, here Milosevic is still in power and not as affected25 as the entire population of Serbs and Muslim Ethnic Albanians. And now, amid growing internal public pressure, Milosevic has been stepping up his propaganda26 campaigns to help keep him in power.
While US forces under NATO have caused most of the destruction in Yugoslavia, President Clinton, in his 1999 Memorial Day speech has said that Europe will pay for the rebuilding27 of the region but many members have said that they will not pay anything until Milosevic is removed from power. As Kostunica has come into power, sanctions have now accordingly been lifted. However, there is much economic and social damage done in former Yugoslavia and rebuilding will be tough.
Unfortunately predictable, part of the blame28 for any ineffectiveness in rebuilding processes is directed at the UN -- even though it is normally ignored by those countries that lay the blame that they are often the ones who are responsible for reducing monetary funds or political support to the UN in the first place.
Many resources used to deliver aid to Kosovo are close to depletion29, or have depleted a vast amount of budgets from various groups. (See the final few paragraphs of the above link. Also from the above link is this interesting quote: "Several countries - such as Yugoslavia, Macedonia and Albania - are in a worse off [condition] than Kosovo "to the point that people from Albania have begun migrating into Kosovo as the situation there is much better due to the enormous amount of aid available," said Rufini".)
The UN have had a tough time, as predicted, and as tensions between different ethnic groups and peace keeping troops have continued, the UN have even had to pull out30 from some areas of Kosovo.
Questions on borders and statehood31 is also rising between neighboring provinces in former Yugoslavia and in Serbia and the recent Kosovo crisis as well as the previous conflicts will no doubt make this hard to resolve for the people of the region.
The alternatives to bombing32 may seem very difficult to achieve and may even be accompanied with problems themselves, but it does seems like bombing has not really led to the humanitarian objectives it was meant to. The damage done socially, and physically in the region may also prove a tough obstacle to a long term, lasting peace33 between the various peoples.
To quote from a very good article, made during the bombing campaign:
Just because Milosevic was wrong, did not automatically make NATO right.
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