Tirana 29 June 1999
"What is Albanian police doing in Djakove, we don't need
foreign police there, and especially not Albanian please, we
had bad experiences with them here." a Kosovar friend of
mine told me this afternoon. He heard of it from a friend who just
went up to his hometown and returned to tell what the situation
was looking like. The town, now one of the areas in
Kosov@ declared safe, is practically undamaged, in the street where my friend
was living only two houses were totally burnt out. His one and
one of somebody living on the other end of the street. Both had worked for the OSCE
before the war, and he felt that the OSCE has a
kind of moral obligation to help him when he is back in Kosov@. At the moment his
problem is that his uncle, who was living in the
same house as him, is angry at him over him having worked for the OSCE,
as now his house is destroyed, too, and he hadn't had
anything to do with it.
We had a long talk about their stay, his and his friends', in
Albania, and about how happy they are to leave. Albania was a bad
experience for them. They had never expected that, in the beginning
it was good, people helped them and gave them food and shelter, but
after a few weeks people started to see them as money generators. Via the
refugees you could get money. Now they are leaving and the
people are somehow angry at them. They are leaving Albania behind,
going back to Kosov@ even when it is not safe, and that means
that there won't be so much money coming to Albania anymore. The
Kosovars say that they can feel that the Albanians are jealous
of them, they in Kosov@ always had it better and will get it better, too.
Whereas those in Albania were poor and will stay poor.
Of course we talked about what kind of state Kosov@ will be.
Since nothing is clear now. He said that if he had to decide
he'd have Kosov@ stay a kind of special protectorate, not become a part of
Albania. Maybe just an autonomous province of Serbia, but with
a higher degree of autonomy than what they had. The nicest would be a
state of their own, but that is unrealistic. In any case they should have
their own civil institutions. Like a police of their own and so on, it
shouldn't be the Albanian police, and neither the UCK, since
neither is trained for police activities. The first are
for the most part not trained at all and the second mostly only as
soldiers and even that not very intensively. By the way, the UCK he
hopes will disappear soon. In his eyes they are far from the
proud army they'd like to act as. And a lot of them were not living in Kosov@ before the war anyway. They just came from abroad
in order to fight. And now they want to play police and even
want to take over the town councils, without any of them
having any experience in politics. According to what my friends
Something that made them even more angry was the story that was even
published in the Albanian newspapers, saying that empty
trucks with Albanian numberplates are driving into Kosov@ and
returning completely full sometime later. The ECMM (European
Commission Monitoring Mission) already reported on this some days ago.
They have the feeling that people from Albania are driving into
Kosov@ to loot empty houses. That was the absolute
limit. Up to now stealing from Albanians by Albanians was
something extremely rare in Kosov@ and totally
against the code of honour. Together we stand against the
Serbs, we should not stand seperate and turn against each
other. If you are here in Tirana and Albania you realize that
this is a totally other world here, every house is protected by
big fences and high walls and iron gates. Just to be sure that
nobody breaks in.
We also discussed the political battle which is taking place
between Rugova and his Bukoshi goverment (with its military
wing FARK) and the self-declared Thaci administration (UCK).
Although most expect that at free elections Thaci will win, he
and his friend hoped that Bukoshi would win the elections when they take place.
Later on the day I had to do a briefing to the Albanian Youth
center about the way station. Although we are doing it together
they still haven't got any volunteers free to do it, all of them
have exams and can't come before the 10th of July. Although the
writings on the wall are clear, they still think that by the
10th of July there will be lots and lots of refugees in
Albania. Since NATO (AFOR) says that they are only capable
to transport 3000 refugees a day. But the transport capacity of the
Albanian private companies is much higher, up to 25.000 per day
are now brought out of the country. They argued with me,
saying that the refugees haven't got any money. And I
explained to them that that is not the problem, in and around camps a
complete black market is building up in the last week, where
refugee are selling all the things they've got in order to
get enough money to go home.
Apart from that more and more organisations, especially from the Arabic
Emirates, are renting buses and trucks and driving anybody who
wants to go back to Kosov@. If you drive the road up north you will
see buses and trucks with Arab banners on them, quoting parts of
the Koran. So I am a bit sceptical about this thought that
people will stay here for a much longer period. More have got
the feeling that by the 10th of July most of the people will have
returned home. And that those who stay will be the ones who
have no relatives, no houses, nothing to go back to, and nobody
who will take care of them when they are back in Kosov@, so
especially the elderly people. They will stay here for the
winter, but not much longer I think.
Also almost all our Kosovar staff has left now, Rrazarta
who will stay here for another ten days at least, and hopes that I
will accompany her and her family back into Kosov@, had her last
day at the office today. Tomorrow she will start with a special
training seminar organised by IRC for the Kosovar Youth
Councils. How to build up organisations there when they are
back in Kosov@. I am really glad that one of our staff was
able to join that seminar, since I hope it will give us a good
relation by the time we will come in Kosov@, so that we don't
need to build it up from scratch like we have done here in the
past two months.
Stuart came back from Shemri way station today, he stayed there
a bit longer than planned as he almost could get a job with
CARE, but it didn't work out that fast. He said that the group
up there is doing fine. More and more people are stopping at
the station and we were able to deliver always just in time.
Katherina is running around there and getting things more and more organised. The playground is now working and is a big help for the station since it keeps the local kids away from
the street. It was planned for the refugee kids, but they only
use it a little. Anyway this is good since it cools down the
tension between the locals and the internationals which was
very high after this local girl was killed by an UNHCR car on
Just got a phone call from our people in Vlore, the
Dutch-Belgian camp which had almost 1000 refugees a week ago is
now back to 180 and the Dutch-Belgian Red Cross is either
providing them with transport to Kosov@ tomorrow or they will
bring them to the Arcobelleno camp in Vlore. Our volunteers who have been there for almost three weeks
now already are planning to come
back to Tirana in the weekend, but some will try and stay in
Vlore and work in the Arcobelleno camp and help with the return
back to Kosov@. And I must say it was a great team in Vlore, we
got a lot of positive reactions back about them from all kinds
of sides. Especially the mine-awareness programm they did with
children in Vlore was received very positively by the Red Cross
By the way, just to give you an update about safety in this
country, yesterday more people died in Albania than in Kosov@. In
Kukes six people were shot, in Shkodre five and in Durres four. All of
this because of gang-fights or blood revenge. In Kosov@ one was killed by a
mine. Thusfar officially 27 people died in Kosov@ by mine
accidents and 47 were seriously injured. But these statistics
were from a few days ago, they're not really up to date.
Communication from Albania to Kosov@ is still difficult, and I
made a satellite phonecall to Kukes today, and even that is
pratically not working. We are basically back to the driving up and down
thing to get real information.
A few days ago just outside Tirana, on the way to Kavaja, an
armoured 4x4 car was stopped and shot at with Kalashnikovs, and when
that didn't work the attackers took out an antitank rocket and
shot that at the car. The car was transporting about 40 kilo of
heroin it was said. In Korca 3 days ago a gypsy was shot dead and
another man was shot 4 rounds in his legs. A day later a
handgrenade detonated in front of a house. On the same day a
couple of handgrenades were thrown in the park in Bajram Curi.
In that area it is reported that the gangs are better equipped than
the police. In Dobrac, near Shkodra a man killed his nephew
because of a family dispute. And a day later a local alleged
gang leader died in a gun attack, local sources fear the start
of a violent gang war.
This is really sometimes like the wild west. Also here in
Tirana you hear gunshots in the night more often.
ps by the way today I found out that we have an office in
Pristina at "Sunny Hill", what could be more appropriate for
the Balkan Sunflowers?
pss when I said our financial situation was becoming better, that
didn't mean we have money enough, we just have a bit of funding
now, so the future looks slightly less dark.