Rugova returns after `a bad war'
Friday 16 July 1999
On the face of it, it was a straightforward and exultant occasion: After weeks of intimidation and exile, Ibrahim Rugova, president of Kosovo, yesterday returned home.
Within a few hours he had met up with the head of the UN Mission in Kosovo (Unmik), and was addressing the media in his front room. He began by thanking everyone, from the Pope downwards, who had contributed to Kosovo's liberation.
He promised to co-operate with international institutions. "It is important to build up on the democracy and freedom we have achieved now," he said.
Mr Rugova's return raises one of the trickiest questions hovering over Kosovo one month after the country's liberation from the Serb forces. Who exactly is in charge?
The arrival of President Rugova complicates an already crowded picture, in which a British general, and a French politician, stand alongside an Albanian "president" and two self-proclaimed prime ministers.
At first glance, President Rugova, would appear to have one of the strongest claims as the closest thing that the Albanian majority has ever had to a popularly elected leader.
He rose to prominence as a literary academic, and founded the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) in 1990. The LDK's policy was pacifist and internationalist. His claim to be "president" derives from underground elections, held by the Albanians in the face of grave Serb oppression, but never recognised internationally.
But to many Mr Rugova is a man of the past. Chief among them is Hashim Thaqi, the most important of the claimants to the prime ministerial crown. During the Kosovo war Mr Thaqi was the effective leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army, active in the front line as well as in the meeting rooms of Albania where Kosovars gathered in exile.
Compared to Mr Thaqi, Mr Rugova had a very bad war - trapped with his family in Pristina, he was whisked away to Belgrade by the Serbs and was filmed shaking hands with Slobodan Milosevic. "That was not co-operation," he said yesterday. "It's over now."
He eventually escaped to Italy where he remained for a puzzlingly long time after the Nato liberation. In his absence, former KLA leaders, with Mr Thaqi as their head, have dominated the newly set-up Provisional Government.
But Mr Thaqi too has his challengers. Last week, a former KLA officer, Bardhyl Mahmuti, broke off to form the Party of Democratic Union.
Like many countries struggling for survival, Kosovo achieved during war a unity which may be difficult to sustain under peace.
But, with tens of thousands homeless and sporadic violence erupting between Serbs and Albanians it will be a long time before the differences in Kosovo can be settled in free and fair elections.
Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£32000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Services Manage...
£10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an outstanding opportunity for 1...
£15 per hour: Ashdown Group: IT Analyst / Helpdesk - 2 Month Contract - £15ph ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This group is the world's secon...