The giant of communism was on its knees and breathing its last in the late 1980s. The people of Balkans were dreaming independence and yearning for a peaceful and prosperous life which was denied by the communist dictators for the last four decades. While many people were optimistic about their future, fears were rearing in the back of the minds of pessimists who dreaded the substitution of one monster with another. And that’s exactly what happened. Communism died a silent death while giving birth to ultra-nationalism.
Slobodan Milosevic ruled with impunity from 1989 to 2000. He was ousted after massive protests broke out in Serbia against his corrupt and authoritarian rule. The new Serbian government extradited him to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands to stand trial for war crimes, genocide and crime against humanity. He died during his detention in 2006.
Exploiting the uncertain situation, Slobodan Milosevic rose from the ranks of the Yugoslav Communist party to become the President of Serbia, the dominant republic within the ailing federation in 1989. As a shrewd politician, Milosevic harped the tune of ethnic unity while consolidating the grip of nationalist Serbs at the expense of other groups. After the demise of the Social Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, he declared the union of Serbia and Montenegro as its successor and quelled demand for the independence of Kosovo by force. Slobodan Milosevic, branded as the ‘Butcher of the Balkans’, not only initiated an unprecedented campaign of genocide and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, he also suppressed ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosovo and perpetrated acts of violence and terrorism against them. For the next ten years, what Albanians in Kosovo encountered was racial discrimination, political intimidation and systematic suppression of their cultural identity and social status.
Remains of the Yugoslav Army headquarters bombed by NATO during the aerial campaign in 1999. Photo – Teddyboy
Ashamed of their collective indifference to acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out by Milosevic’s regime in Bosnia from 1992-95, the Western leaders this time were swift in their response. Serbian military was targeted during an aerial NATO campaign that lasted for 78 days from March to June 1999. As a result, Milosevic withdrew his troops and agreed to the deployment of a UN-led peace force in the region.
Kosovo Liberation Army initiated an armed insurgency against Milosevic rule in Kosovo from 1996-1999.
Since then, we all know, the region is under the supervision of the international community led by the EU. As we are told, Kosovo is largely peaceful and has made considerable progress towards democracy and prosperity. The transition of disarming and incorporating the former guerrillas into civil society has been successful and the former rebel leader and chief Kosovo negotiator, Haschim Thaci, is now the prime minister of the newly declared independent republic.
I had no reason to doubt or disbelieve the accounts of mainstream media. And why should I be skeptic about a region which is under the aegis of international diplomats and bureaucrats? After all, they have brought peace and stability to a region that merely a decade ago was on the brink of becoming another Bosnia, isn’t it? Yes, I, along with countless people across the globe are constantly reminded of the ethnic divisions of Kosovo and the efforts carried out by the international community to heal them. To me, as an outsider, Kosovo always stood as a showcase of international resolve and commitment that displays the virtues of democracy and good governance and paves the way to greater integration and cooperation.