In Postwar Kosovo, It's 'Who's the Boss?' Time

  • Share
  • Read Later
A leader without a party and a party without a leader may sound like a match made in heaven, but not in Kosovo. The first attempt by the United Nations to launch some form of Kosovar self-government foundered Friday, after Ibrahim Rugova’s Democratic League of Kosovo boycotted a forum established to design the province’s political future. Rugova stayed away because his party had only two seats on the panel, while the Kosovo Liberation Army and its allied United Democratic League had two each. Rugova claims to be Kosovo’s elected "president" –- he won a clandestine election held by Kosovar Albanians after the Serbs stripped the region of its autonomy — while the KLA’s Hashem Thaci is supposedly its "prime minister." But the two camps now look set for a fierce power struggle.

"Thaci has the advantage of being the young charismatic fighter who achieved more in nine months than Rugova’s pacifism did in 10 years," says TIME Central Europe bureau chief Massimo Calabresi. "But many Kosovars don’t trust the KLA, and it has no political structures through which to build support. Rugova, on the other hand, has been discredited by his dealings with Milosevic during the war, but he still has the strongest political organization operating throughout Kosovo."

Even before they’ve resolved their power struggle, Kosovo’s ethnic-Albanian leaders are facing a new political crisis. The U.N. High Commission for Refugees reported Friday that Kosovo’s Serbs are facing not simply spontaneous acts of vengeance by returning Albanians, but a systematic campaign of killings, kidnappings and arson designed to drive them from the province. Being accused of ethnic cleansing isn’t going to help the Kosovar leadership win the international legitimacy it covets.