Kosova: the Albanian divide
by Migjen Kelmendi
The major problem facing politics in Kosova today can be very simply explained: the armed forces in Kosova, euphemistically called the Kosova Protection Corps (TMK), are in conflict with the main political force, the Kosova Democratic League (LDK). So the presence of KFOR and the international community in Kosova is still indispensable; for the antagonism is so strong that, just as in Turkey in the 1980s, it could lead to a situation where civil war becomes a real danger.
For historians of the war in Kosova it is obvious that this antagonism has its roots in the rift that led to the creation of two Kosovar armed forces, the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) and the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kosova (FARK). This wartime rift still divides political life and the main political parties in Kosova to this day. It poses a crucial dilemma for present-day Kosova. Who should control the TMK? Should it be its UCK founders, or should it be the institutions formed after free elections?
A product of reform and peaceful demilitarization of the UCK, the TMK is mainly composed of former officers and soldiers of the guerrilla group. Agim Ceku, one of the best and most highly trained UCK commanders, was chosen to lead the TMK. Almost all the TMK cadres and officers come from the ranks of the UCK. The President of the Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), Hashim Thaci, always cites the formation of the TMK as one of the greatest successes of the postwar period, highlighting the important role played by the PDK and the Alliance for the Future of Kosova (AAK), political parties which themselves came out of the war. The underlying message of such statements from the leaders of the PDK and the AAK is simple: ‘We are the TMK, the TMK is a product of our fight.’
On the other hand, the free elections which took place under the watchful eye of the international community have been won for the third time in a row by the candidates of the LDK. As a result of these elections the LDK has won the right to govern and to run the main institutions. The rift arising from the war continues at daggers drawn, however, to determine the influence of the various parties over the provisional institutions created since the end of the war.
Thus the LDK has control over the presidency and the parliament, whereas the parties which came out of the war - the PDK and the AAK - control the government and the TMK. Even if, in today’s conditions of peace and democratic development, this division into ‘spheres of influence’ may seem bizarre, it has nothing to do with any difference of vision or political programme among the parties. It is merely a result of the wartime divide, the divide between those who waged war and those who lost the war.
Non-recognition of the president’s authority by the majority of members of the TMK vindicates and feeds the hidden ambitions of the biggest political party, the LDK, to demand the creation of new armed forces. And this non-recognition is mutual. Just as the TMK does not respect the authority of the provisional president, President Rugova does not recognize the TMK or respect the history of its creation. Hence, with a Kosova Protection Corps built on such a shaky foundation, Kosova faces a new and great danger: the creation of party militias. How can this be avoided?
The moral right of those parties who came out of the war to consider the ex-UCK and the TMK of today as the product of their courage, patriotism and sacrifices should be recognized. By the same token, the TMK should recognize and respect the political authorities established by free elections rather than by war, as well as the political role of the LDK.
The professionalism and the depoliticization of the members of the TMK must be real. The process is in train, and it is the only route for making the TMK into a modern and professional military formation. It is also the only way to avoid a military coup d’Etat.
This article has been translated from Le Courrier des Balkans, 18 January 2003