Kosova's ‘Mandela’ says that independence is the key to the future
by Patrick Moore
Adem Demaçi, who is known as ‘Kosova's Mandela’ because he served nearly 30 years in Yugoslav communist prisons, told RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service recently that Kosova's new parliament is likely to be much more lively than its predecessor. He also stressed the importance of independence as the key to Kosova's economic recovery.
Demaçi became a great moral authority in Kosova because his long years in prison never dampened his spirit or drove him to hatred. Albin Kurti, a leader of the Kosovar student movement in the 1990s, once told RFE/RL Newsline that Demaçi has always maintained the enthusiasm and energy of a teenager. Demaçi himself said to Newsline that the several years he spent in solitary confinement were the happiest ones in his life ‘because I was never closer to God.’
Now advanced in years, Demaçi until recently held a largely honorific post at Kosova's largest public broadcaster, RTK. Although there have been periodic reports in the media that he might enter active politics, he seems to prefer to remain on the sidelines, exerting his moral authority and making often biting comments on the absurdities and injustices he sees around him.
Speaking to RFE/RL, he said that there is no point wasting words regarding the formation of the new coalition government between President Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosova (LDK) and Ramush Haradinaj's Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK). Demaçi argued that the LDK, which is the strongest party in the parliament, chose the AAK as its coalition partner because the AAK is only the third-largest parliamentary group and therefore presumably much easier to manipulate than would be Hashim Thaçi's Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), which is the second strongest legislative party.
Demaçi added that it is probably no great loss to Kosova that the former broad-based coalition will be replaced by a smaller coalition and an opposition. He said that if the opposition is active and critical, ‘we will learn about many things that were previously swept under the rug.’ Demaçi added that he is confident that Thaçi and Veton Surroi, whose Ora party is the fourth largest parliamentary party, will provide a robust opposition.
Demaçi believes that it remains an open question whether Haradinaj, who is prime minister designate, will do well in that office. Demaçi pointed out that there is strong suspicion that the Hague-based war crimes tribunal might soon indict the AAK leader in connection with his role as a commander of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) during the 1998-99 conflict, and that the UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) and some Western diplomats are trying to block his appointment. In any event, Demaçi concluded, Haradinaj's immediate political future is more in the hands of ‘outside forces than of domestic ones.’
The former political prisoner also discussed the need for Kosova's independence, stressing that many important issues cannot be dealt with before the province's final and independent status is clarified. ‘We have 100 problems here, but everything is linked to the question of independence. For example, we cannot engage in economic and financial cooperation with the outside world because everybody tells us "you're not a state and have nobody to guarantee our investments",’ Demaçi noted.
He added that Kosova currently lacks the authority to make the most basic decisions regarding its future, including its finances, the economy, or holding elections. He argues that it was an unjust imposition by the international community to require that the 23 October parliamentary elections be conducted with closed party lists, since this prevented the full exercise of democracy and the right to choose individual or independent candidates.
Rule of law
What Kosova needs, Demaçi believes, is the opportunity to create its own state based on the rule of law, which will include not only the ethnic Albanian majority but also ‘the minorities who live and who will decide to live with us’.
He does not have a high opinion of the international community's ‘standards before status’ formula, however. Demaçi agrees that the standards - including the right to security and freedom of movement - represent a noble ideal to which all peoples, societies, and countries should aspire. But he also notes that ‘in Kosova there are no means to realize such aims’ at present, adding that ‘there are many countries in Europe that have not realized them,’ either.
Demaçi suspects that the requirement for meeting standards was imposed on Kosova as an excuse to put ‘pressure on the Albanians’ and eventually partition the province along ethnic lines as a sop to Serbia. He regards this as unacceptable and an impediment to progress, which he equates with independence.
In fact, Kosova has a European future only as an independent country, Demaçi argues. His remarks contrast with some recent proposals from German opposition politicians to make Kosova an EU protectorate, and with recent remarks by Serbia and Montenegro Foreign Minister Vuk Drasković that Kosova should become what he called a ‘European region’ within the boundaries of Serbia.
‘Kosova's Mandela’ nonetheless retains his optimism regarding people and the possibility of Serbs and Albanians to live together. ‘All nations and all people are good people. There are no bad nations. I do not agree with those Albanians who say that there are no good Serbs and that all of them are bad. I'm someone who believes in man and believes that if we create [real] conditions for living together on the basis of equality and without meddling or violence...then we can achieve it.’
This article appeared in RFE/RL Balkan Report, Vol. 8, No. 42, 5 December 2004