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Crisis 1999
News Archive 1999

Challenge for KFOR

Life is starting to go back to normal in Kosovo. But this is just the very beginning of normalisation. The scars, and even the wounds are still evident all over the place. And this does not refer only to psychological trauma and terrible nightmares that people carry inside and that many will live with. This is either less obvious on the surface or not visible at all. The former are visible in all. If one wished to consider the significance of the one or the other in the process of normalisation, one could hardly decide what should be given priority. Physical treatment, under the condition that there will be enough money for it, may in short-term seem effective, and even impressive. But this should be done for people who will be capable not only to use but also to enjoy in material achievements. It will be very difficult to accomplish this with hundreds of thousands of people or better to say children who have lost the feeling for joy, but also for sorrow and sympathy. Their souls are seized by intolerance, hatred, atavistic struggle for survival... If this aspect is pushed back in the background, it is easy to imagine what normalisation in the long run will be like.

On the surface, everything indicates that in a just short time life has quickly acquired the outlines of normality. The most unbelievable in it is the return of ethnic Albanian to Kosovo that resembled an avalanche. The cities have taken the brunt of the return for the time being. They probably nowadays have more inhabitants than they used to have before the war. The cities have electricity, mostly water, too. Shops and stores have been repaired quickly, a little later on bakeries were opened, street trade boomed almost instantaneously. Mostly food is sold, gasoline and cigarettes. Because of robbery and looting, merchants are afraid to invest into expensive goods. It is impossible to buy kitchen appliances, computers or similar devices in Pristina.

The impression is that the prices are somewhat higher, but one cannot speak of very costly living especially if prices are compared with the value of the German mark. When speaking about money, a very strong trend is noticeable of discarding the dinar from use and buying and selling in German marks. This currency is present in all transactions in Kosovo in the past ten years. Probably the only obstacle to the dinar being altogether discarded is the lack of small banknotes. But, the dinar is also a political issue and only after legal regulation of financial trends will it be possible to speak about its status in Kosovo.

Telephones are a big problem in all the cities. Communication with the world is extremely limited. There is no communication between the cities by phone either, and there are big limitations even within the cities. The only reliable manner of communication are mobile phones registered abroad. But this is possible only from Pristina, and even that not always. Interurban bus traffic is gradually being established. Due to the fact that a large number of buses has either been stollen or ruined, one cannot say that the situation has been normalised yet, especially if one has in view the needs of the population. City transportation in Pristina has started to operate, but probably due to a small number of available vehicles and the customary irregularity, the role of the city transport company in transportation of passengers is very small. This task is carried out by illegal taxi-drivers who played the main role in city transportation before the war. When speaking about traffic it should be said that it is absolutely chaotic when ownership documents and driving licences and other papers are concerned. The greatest number of vehicles do not have licence plates at all. Probably a large number of the vehicles have been stollen and a large number of drivers are driving around without licences. Members of KFOR often carry out controls, sometimes very detailed and strict, but only looking for arms.

Rural settlements have suffered greatest destruction during the war. They cannot recover even in the regions which have not seriously been struck or have not ven been damaged. The reason for this is that traditional rural activities which are the foundation of life in the village have completely died out or been interrupted. Villages have partly been vacated in the course of last year already, and during the past spring life has completely died out in all its aspects. Livestock which was disappearing during whole of last yar, has been almost completely destroyed past spring. Last year the crop has not been collected. Last autumn little, and the past spring nothing has been sowed or planted. The fields of Kosovo are covered by grass, scrub and underbush. There are neither domestic nor wild animals. Most of the wells which used to provide drinkable water, were deliberately polluted during the war, so that this is now a great problem for the entire rural population in Kosovo.

Migration into cities should also be observed in the context of permanent wish of many people, especially the young ones, to live in the city. This tendency has been intensified by current (im)possibility to provide for bare existence. Humanitarian aid in the villages is insufficient and irregular. In the cities, it is easier to get this aid, and it is easier to ensure existence by other means - small-scale smuggling and trade. Such phenomena are customary in such situations and they would not be so evident if it were not for numerous complaints that the aid is either not arriving at all or that it is inadequate.

Excessive accumulation of the population in the cities will create and reveal great civilisation problems of security and social and psychological balance and adaptation. At the moment this is expressed by a quickly increasing number of gangs and multiplication of acts of robbery and looting. The most profitable business is looting of apartments and houses and stealing of cars and other vehicles. In the beginning it seemed that the property of the Serbs was the target, but nowadays it is everything that can be stollen. The apartments and houses of the Serbs are not broken into only in order to give a place to stay to those who were left without their homes during the war, but in order to loot them, to form mafia strongholds and networks, to lease them, and even to sell them at a very low price to the naive ones who are ready to believe that for such small amounts of money they could have become owners of an apartment or house. Putting an end to and clearing up of this chaos will be the test of resoluteness and successfulness of the international community in Kosovo.

AIM Pristina

Fehim Rexhepi

Source: AIM
(Alternativna Informativna Mreza /Alternative Information Network in former Yugoslavia)

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