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2006-01-21

Rugova dies - the mystery remains 

Ibrahim Rugova, the long-time political leader of Albanians in Kosova, has died at age 61 of the lung cancer with which he was diagnosed last September. He was a nationalist and a pacifist.

I never arrived at an interpretation of his role and merits in which I could believe with confidence. Was he a pacifist leader of his people inspired by moral values? Or was he a representative of an elite that acted cowardly because it had a lot to lose?

The ultimate mystery in this respect remains his televised meeting with Milosevic in the middle of the bombing campaign against Serbia in 1999. Why did Rugova let himself be used like that?

The "World Socialist Web Site" describes this foggy matter nicely, although certainly with a pro-Serb tendency:

After the breakdown of the talks [at Rambouillet], Rugova went back to Kosovo and held a press conference saying, “It’s high time that NATO took some action, that something must be done. That happened on the 20th or 21st of March, 1999.”

Several LDK leaders went missing, fuelling press speculation that Milosevic had murdered them. Within a few days they reappeared and newspapers printed pictures showing Rugova at a cordial meeting with Milosevic.

Rugova and Milosevic signed an agreement giving Kosovo, “extensive self-government, along with the full respect for equality of all citizens in national communities, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and Yugoslavia. It was noted that such an approach constitutes a basis for a lasting and just solution.”

He explained to the court [war crimes tribunal against Milosveic at The Hague] that he expected his meeting with Milosevic “to be confidential, but the accused insisted that it become public, and then it was publicised.” He continued, “they thought that they could compromise me politically and discredit me in the eyes of the Kosovar public, the Albanian public, and they also wanted to foment conflicts on the Albanian political stage among Albanians.”

The agreement promised everything Rugova had been demanding, but he claims he had signed it while under house arrest and in fear for his life. Milosevic suggested another reason for their meeting. He said, “Mr. Rugova, you came to me, asking me to save you and your family from a possible assassination perpetrated by the KLA. Look me in the eyes and tell me whether that is true or not.” Rugova laughed at the suggestion, saying he was not aware of any KLA killings: “No. Not even individual cases or an organised campaign.”

In any event, Milosevic organised for Rugova to fly to Italy. A few days later, on May 6, 1999, Rugova heard that his close associate Fehmi Agani had been executed. Rugova alleges that Serbian soldiers or paramilitaries were responsible. He claimed there was no power struggle among the Albanians, saying, “For the accused, all these, our structures have always been criminal ones, but I was never scared of them, of being killed by any Albanians.”

When asked about press reports that KLA leader Hahim Thaci ordered the murder of political rivals, Rugova said, “I don’t know about these things.” But after further questioning about the killing of his own party members, including Haki Meri, the president of the Srbica regional LDK, Rugova admitted, “About murders that took place after the war, we started investigations.”


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