P r e s s I n f o # 46 September 4, 1998


"In Kosovo/a both Dr. Rugova's non-violence and KLA's violence have failed.

They seem both to lack political analysis and a clear cut philosophical

basis, and thus strategy. The alternative to Kosovo-Albanian pragmatic

nonviolence, however, is NOT terrorism and military struggle. The

alternative could be principled nonviolence and political innovation based

upon realism," says TFF director Jan Oberg.

Under Dr. Ibrahim Rugova's leadership the Kosovo-Albanians fought for their

independence from Serbia with non-violent means up till 1996 when the

clandestine Kosova Liberation Army - having armed itself since 1992-93 -

appeared on the scene. It was the only political leadership in

ex-Yugoslavia that followed non-violence and also favoured a neutral,

non-military, soft-bordered independent republic, Kosova. In short, it was

the wisest and most innovative political movement in the region.

The KLA has, at least for the time being, altered the political situation

in Kosovo/a conflict. And to the worse! During my recent conversation with

Dr. Rugova, on July 31, he assured me that LDK and he himself stand firmly

on non-violence.

But what kind of non-violence? To put it crudely, it is a sympathetic

pragmatic non-violence rather than philosophical or principled nonviolence.

When principled, we say "nonviolence" in one word, not "non-violence," Jan

Oberg explains. "Dr. Rugova is a moderate, cultured, low-voiced and pretty

dogged personality. I have had the privilege to meet him several times for

hour long, informal discussions since 1992. I have no doubt that he is by

heart convinced that Kosova's independence must be achieved by non-violence

rather than by violence.

LDK's and Rugova's policies have been called "Gandhian" - by people who

don't know much about Gandhi. But there are some similarities. Perhaps the

most impressive achievements in terms of true nonviolence in the parallel

state of Kosova shall not be found in the political sphere but in civil

society of Kosova.

The development of an international information system and media presence -

through fax, e-mail and websites - and the international diplomatic

activity is impressing; indeed, much more so than that of Serbia/Yugoslavia.

The development of parallel cultural, social and health sectors in Kosova

is "Gandhian" in many ways. It has not harmed the opponent, but it has

provided the minimum for Albanian teachers, children and youth who,

particularly from 1990, did not feel welcome in the school system run by

Belgrade. One can always discuss the quality of such alternative health and

education systems; I was told that 20 000 teachers are paid by the Kosova

government. And it is estimated that it costs the equivalent of US $ 1,5

million per day in total to keep the Kosova state as such operating. This

sum is generated inside Kosova but mostly collected outside by appealing to

all Albanians in the Diaspora to pay 3 % of their income to the Kosova


All this would have been impossible had there not been a strong public

support for such a non-violent strategy inside Kosova. Also, the

non-violent policies - not very isomorphic with the culture of Albanians in

general - was a stabilising, moderating factor during the wars in Croatia

and Bosnia. One hardly dares think of what could have happened if hotheads,

not Rugova, had been in charge of Kosova at the time!" - says Oberg.


"However impressive and unique these achievements are, the real problem

began, I believe, when the Kosovars proclaimed their sovereign republic of

Kosova and its cessation from Serbia on July 2nd, 1990. They did so on the

steps outside the parliament in the turmoil following the clamp-down by the

Serbian authorities on (parts of) their autonomy and the expelling of MPs

from the parliament building. On September 22, 1991, when the Kosova

Republic's parallel parliament declared the state independent and had this

decision confirmed by a referendum organised clandestinely a few days

later. In other words, a historical moment of panic.

This was 'symbol politics' - something Gandhi would hardly have done. The

dilemma thus created is evident: if you tell, or promise, your 2 million

people that they already live in the Independent Kosova, ANY negotiation

with Serbia, Yugoslavia or the international community would mean a backing

down from this maximalist position - and maximalist it was as seen by

Belgrade as well as by the international community. This is the reason that

no state, except at the time Albania, recognised the Kosova Republic. Youth

who were about 10 years old when their parents told them that they lived in

Independent Kosova are now entering university education and becoming

politically conscious; they become very frustrated when they find out that

this self-proclaimed state is a parallel society with gigantic

socio-economic problems and quite some hardships and certainly not a real


This explains why the Kosovo-Albanian leadership has been consistently

negative to negotiations - although declaring themselves for it, if an

international Third Party participated. My own experience from carrying

messages back and forth over four years is quite clear on this point: it

was NEVER the right time for Dr. Rugova to start negotiations. Also, in

spite of the fact that the Kosovo-Albanians, had they participated in

Yugoslav elections, could have ousted Milosevic, they refused to do so.

Those who advocated participation in elections were seen as traitors. The

strategy required someone 'evil' in Belgrade also to mobilize sympathy


This whole strategy is clearly un-Gandhian, clearly unprincipled. Gandhi

would have sought actively to establish a face-to-face dialogue and built

alliances with 'good' Serbs. So was the idea of advocating non-violence

while simultaneously calling for NATO to protect, alternatively bomb,

Serbian territory in support for Kosova's independence. I know that Dr.

Rugova saw this dilemma all the time, but the hardliners and

militarist-romantic hotheads would not hear a word about negotiations. "We

already ARE independent, so what is there to talk with fascist Serbia

about," they would often tell you.

Un-Gandhian was also the repeated advocacy of tougher sanctions against

Serbia and Serbs. A true Gandhian sees no point in harming the opponent and

certainly not the opponent's innocent citizens. Furthermore, the typical

stereotyping of all Serbs that you find so widespread - "seen one, you've

seen them all, and they are bad guys" was a great mistake. An even greater

mistake - from a Gandhian viewpoint - was that nothing was done by LDK to

introduce peace and human rights education and conflict understanding in

the alternative schools. And they did not link up with local Serbs and the

Serb people elsewhere. LDK has information centres around the world but not

in Belgrade where it is most needed!

Then there is the problem of political creativity and energy: it is evident

that the Kosovo-Albanian leadership have entertained a number of illusions

or high but unrealistic hopes: a) that the Dayton process would include

Kosovo; b) that the world would not recognise Yugoslavia with the Kosovo

province inside it, and c) that the world's support for the human rights of

Kosovo-Albanians was identical with a support for the project of an

independent republic. When these turned out to be false hopes, the

leadership lost momentum and got paralysed. There was no fall-back strategy

and no revision of means and goals. Public dialogue was stifled and people

started leaving LDK. It's sad, but that's the way it is," says Oberg.

"So, is a military struggle the alternative? Of course not, it's a blunder,

a dangerous intellectual and moral short circuit. You hear again and again

that it is understandable, people are so frustrated. But the clandestine,

illegal arms build-up started 5-6 years ago, not last year.

Many have criticised Rugova for choosing 'passive' non-violence. They

wanted more activism, more visibility. Why have elections, critics would

argue, when during all these years Rugova refused to assemble the Kosova

parliament? Why not have demonstrations and peaceful marches and strikes

all over the region, why not sit-downs, go-slow actions, civil

disobedience, obstruction of the factories - all nonviolently?=20

These are very good questions," comments Jan Oberg. I believe that the

education and training of all citizens for such activities - and they would

be dangerous without such education and training - was never contemplated

by Rugova's leadership. On the other hand, we must be careful with words

here: the build-up of a parallel society is not exactly expressions of

passivity. But, in addition to that, something was missing - because this

WAS NOT a Gandhian, nonviolent politics.

Be this as it may, Rugova's answer today is that they chose the right way

under the circumstances - that if more radical methods had been employed

"we would not be here today" as he told me recently.

Paradoxically, however, the only time the Kosova Parliament assembled was

this July, in the midst of heavy fighting in the province, not the safest

moment. But it was allowed to and important ceremonial functions took some

20 minutes before the MPs left. Remarkably, there was no attempt by Serbian

authorities to prevent the Assembly or interrupt it. (See PressInfo 45

about the tolerance also shown by Belgrade over the years).


=46or quite some time, oppositional Albanian intellectuals and politicians

have accused LDK/Rugova of lacking a sense of democracy, flexibility and

building consensus. That he doesn't listen, or listens but doesn't do

anything. Some even say that he is in collusion with Milosevic. It DOES

look strange" says Jan Oberg, "that there is still no government formed

since the elections in March. And the way the new - much too narrow -

negotiation team was composed is totally non-transparent.

Many of these intellectuals now uncritically embrace KLA/UCK and argue that

'the alternative to non-violence is this militant struggle.'

=46irst, it is impossible to see KLA/UCK as more democratic or more tolerant

of diverse opinions than Rugova's leadership. Indeed, it has refused to be

under any democratic political control and public accountability; many

perform under false names and nobody seem to know who is leading which

fraction and responsible for which activities. Citizens of the Kosova

Republic have not been granted any opportunity to voice their opinion on

whether or not to switch from non-violence to a militant policy or directly

violent struggle. Sadly, Kosova's citizens have now either been victimised

directly by KLA's own activity and forced 'recruitment' or indirectly by

the counterattacks of Serb forces that hit them severely.

SECOND, it is interesting to see that Mr. Adem Demaqi has become the

political leader or spokesman of the KLA. For quite some time Mr. Demaqi

has advocated a "Balkania" solution which implies, among other things, that

Kosovo should become a third republic of Yugoslavia. Although this can be

seen as a step towards cessation, it is moderate in comparison with

Rugova's maximalist goal of total independence. In terms of means, Demaqi

until recently promoted maximalist active nonviolence which contrasts

Rugova's minimalist means. So the KLA has chosen a political figure who has

advocated goals and means directly opposite to those of KLA! And so, Mr

Demaqi has quickly radicalized his rhetoric.

So, yes, there are contradictions in Rugova's policies and it seems that

his movement has run out of vision and energy. The contradictions in and

among the opposition to him seems, however, to be considerably bigger,"

Oberg points out. While Rugova has been running on symbol politics, he

still has one major advantage: no blood on his hands.

One may ask how long time it will take for the Albanian advocates and

practitioners of violence to recognise that violence makes ANY process, ANY

settlement and ANY future life more, not less, difficult.

The KLA has already failed in four ways: 1) morally because it started with

terror and has announced that it intends to return to it; 2) militarily

because it miscalculated the 'balance of forces,' thought it could create

and hold liberated towns and thought it would be rescued by NATO; 3)

politically because its spokesperson talks about all Albanians in one

state, and 4) democratically because it is not a genuine guerrilla movement

that 'swims in the sea' of its citizens and is loved by them. Fear is



But is principled nonviolence not far to weak in the face of a repressive

regime such as Belgrade? We don't know the answer," says Oberg. "It has

been practised neither in Belgrade nor in Kosovo (or elsewhere in

ex-Yugoslavia for that matter). But it was nonviolent popular movement that

put an end to the Marcos regime, to the Shah of Iran and mobilised the

world opinion against the Vietnam war. It put an end to authoritarian

communist Poland - Solidarnosc - and carried the 'velvet revolution' in

Czechoslovakia. What would have happened if they had fought with weapons

against these militarily much stronger enemies? It was peace movements,

women, dissidents AND Michael Gorbachev who - non-violently - put an end to

the Cold War and paved the way for a very significant reduction in the

world's nuclear arsenals. These are no small achievements in human

history!" - emphasizes TFF director Oberg, "but, true, they are never

presented as victories for nonviolence in our media, so its potentials

remain largely hidden."

He concludes, "Like a military battle can be fought in different ways, so

can a non-violent struggle. The alternative to passive non-violence is NOT

violence and terror, not even in the face of violence and terror. It is a

different, principled - and of course active - nonviolence based not on

make-believe politics but on real politics in the tradition of Mahatma

Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

=46or decades Kosovo has been the shining illustration of Gandhi's famous

dictum that "the principle of an eye for an eye will one day make the whole

world blind." Hardline politicians and trigger-happy people on both sides

have been blinded long enough. Everyone should be able to now SEE that

violence, also having been tried now by the Albanian side, won't do the

trick. And if it did, the liberated Kosova would become a garrison state, a

state imbued with repression, a mirror of the state it seceded from and,

perhaps, the scene of a civil war.

The potentials of principled nonviolence is not consumed in Kosovo/a. In

fact, it has not been tried yet. It will have to be re-invented by new

energies. Indeed, that is the only means that can produce a viable

solution. One wonders why the international community, from left to right,

produces so many voices from a dark age senselessly advocating NATO

violence as THE solution. What's wrong with nonviolence based on analysis

and coherent conflict-mitigation principles? Why don't we see diplomats,

experts and media explore the potentials and teach the strengths of such a


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Dr. Jan Oberg

Director, head of the TFF Conflict-Mitigation team to the Balkans and Georgi=



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