Photo: Michael Hayworth.

The divisive figure in the role of the peacemaker

Thaci’s aim to initiate a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a desperate attempt of a divisive figure, who can’t even reconcile Albanians amongst themselves.

On February 13, 2017, Kosovo initiated a historic process – the process of reconciliation with Serbia and the Serbs. It is on this very day that the recruitment for the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation began.

So, 18 years after the war, Hashim Thaci called for Serbs and Albanians to bury the hatchet, hug one another in the name of reconciliation, proximity, good neighborly relations, and in the name of European and global integration.  The event gathered a few local politicians, a few European retirees and a few ambassadors. In other words, the usual suspects.

The project would have been successful if it started a day after – on Valentine’s day. It would have been more suitable. It looks like the president mixed the date up. Yet, this is not the only shortcoming of an initiatve typical of Hashim Thaci. Just like he managed to secure the de facto recognition of Kosovo by Serbia through his negotiations in Brussels; just like he removed the visa requirement within “15 months” (his original promise); just like he created 220,000 jobs; just like he turned Kosovo into the Silicon Valley of the Balkans as far as IT is concerned – that is exactly how he is starting the process of overcoming century-long hostilities between Albanians and Serbs.

Before initiating this great mission, the president recounted what has been done since 1999: “Kosovo is built. Cities, villages, and our destroyed houses were built. Democratic and rule of law institutions were built. We established our police, and today it is considered the best and the fairest in the Balkans. Today in fact, at first glance, you can hardly find a sign that shows that there was a war in Kosovo only two decades ago.”

Behind the facade painted by the political “wall painter” Hashim Thaci lies a completely different Kosovo. A Kosovo whose citizens, hundreds of thousands of them, fled in the last two to three years. A Kosovo with polluted cities, without investments, without a productive economy and without prospects. A Kosovo which beyond the myth of “the best police in the region” deals with a police that is ineffective in fighting  crime and corruption, and whose commanders are often themselves connected to illegal activities. A Kosovo with judges and prosecutors that bargain with cases outside judicial institutions. A Kosovo with MPs who represent organized crime more than they do the people.

It is always good to talk about reconciliation. But in Kosovo’s case, reconciliation cannot be initiated and done by a divisive figure who takes on the role of the peacemaker. First and foremost, it is difficult to even talk about reconciliation with the Serbs without achieving reconciliation among Albanians.

If the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, tries to use the death of its activists, killed after the war, to victimize itself and gain political points, families and swathes of people won’t allow it.

In the 20th century, no society found peace without shedding light on the political crimes that had been perpetrated. And plenty of those were perpetrated in Kosovo during and after the war. This society is divided by a pool of blood – on one side lie the people who murdered innocent folk to gain power (the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, played a dirty role here), and on the other side, the ones who did not have the courage or opportunity to resist evil, accepted it, hushed, and gave up.

As a result, Hashim Thaci can today prattle with cynical words like this: “During the war, I became convinced to commit to not allowing these atrocities to happen again.”

Two decades later, after so many atrocities were perpetrated in Kosovo, Thaci tells the public that, it was during the war that he decided that atrocities would not happen again. How did he contribute to prevent those atrocities? Perhaps it is better to ask: how did he contribute in the perpetration of those atrocities? Can a person who is comfortably seated in the president’s chair and does nothing apart from settling his personal affairs through handing out decorations, presidential “charms;” by participating in “commemorative academies,” lead the reconciliation process? These questions will be answered by the Specialist Chambers.

Considering Thaci is such a divisive and contested figure among Albanians, one can only imagine how seriously people take his desperate and absurd attempts to look like a Kosovar Nelson Mandela. A prerequisite for taking on such a role is – first and foremost- moral credibility, which Thaci lacks. Today he talks about dialogue, reconciliation, against revenge, and against the repetition of the past, for a “new beginning,” and so on; a tedious vocabulary learned by heart in “workshops” with diplomats who do not differentiate between the victim and the aggressor. Thaci talks about forgiveness, but without saying what the Albanian side needs to apologize for. We first need to see what crimes the Albanian side  has committed, then we can discuss this issue.

Thaci’s initiative for quasi-reconciliation comes at a time when Serbia is expanding its narrative that everyone in Kosovo perpetrated crimes and that the Serbian state does not bear any responsibility for the terror in Kosovo. As shown in a recent dossier published by the Humanitarian Law Center, about 110 Serbian officials took part in the transportation of hundreds of Albanian victims to Serbia in 1999, but not a single one was sentenced.

Furthermore, there is not a single commemorative plaque to honor the victims at the Albanian mass graves in Serbia. Those people were killed in Kosovo, buried in Kosovo, exhumed and moved 400 kilometers away from the crime scene with the obvious intention of hiding the evidence. Meanwhile, the racist language against Albanians is not appearing only on the front pages of Serbian tabloids. While Belgrade refuses to take any step towards reconciliation with Kosovo Albanians, Thaci’s initiatives are nothing more than a part of his personal and private agendas, which stem from his fear of the Specialist Chambers.

During a visit to Croatia in April 2015, the then Foreign Minister Thaci had announced a genocide lawsuit against Serbia. Since then, nothing happened. Now a threat to sue is replaced with the idea for a reconciliation commission. Which announcement should Kosovar citizens believe?

15 February 2017 - 14:59

Enver Robelli

15/02/2017 - 14:59

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosova. For 8 years, PI has been reporting on current affairs, published exclusive investigations and longform features & essays about Kosovo and the region.