Howard Clark, 'Civil Resistance in Kosovo'

IssueDecember 2000 - February 2001
Review by Antonia Young

In writing this book, former PN editor Howard Clark has drawn on his close involvement with Kosov@ for over a decade, and with nonviolent theory and action for several decades. Fascinated by a remarkable movement, he hoped to assist in the prevention of war (“Why was the war most warned about not prevented?” p213).

Clark provides a minutely detailed account of these unique developments throughout the decade up to the eruption of extreme violence of 1998-9. Using a wide variety of sources, especially interviews and discussions with policy makers and dissidents within the movement, he pieces together the intricate picture which few outside Kosova followed so closely. For the majority of people outside the area, awareness of the province and its situation only emerged after that publicised moment of violence, while the extraordinary restraint which had preceded it was ignored. Noel Malcolm (Kosovo: A Short History ) and Miranda Vickers (Between Serb and Albanian: A History of Kosovo ) preceded Clark's book in clarifying the earlier history of the area. A spate of other books was published soon after; however none has analysed in such detail the nature and the unanimity of the Kosovar Albanians' nonviolent efforts, despite increasing disagreements on their tactics.

Clark's narrative follows the course of the nonviolent strategy in Kosova chronologically. He describes a movement growing in size, enthusiasm and success from the early 1990's up to the time of the Dayton Accords in November 1995. Although these meetings were set up primarily to resolve the horrendous situation in Bosnia, it was assumed that the increasing tensions in Kosova would also be addressed, that lessons would have been learned from intervening so late in Bosnia, and that the patience shown thus far by Albanians in Kosova would earn some reward. But when Kosova was dropped from the discussions, disillusion set in and thereafter the nonviolent movement lost its momentum. Clark considers that in any case the process needed re-invigorating to maintain the intense efforts and extreme hardships involved in running parallel schooling and parallel health clinics when all state facilities were inaccessible to the 90% Albanian population of Kosova (from 1991 when 90% of that population were fired from state jobs and replaced by Serbs). From that time onwards, all Albanians in Kosova came under intense repression by a regime which took half of all males (including children) into police custody for a minimum of “informative talks”, usually involving violence, sometimes death.

Clark's object is not to discuss the NATO actions. Nor the tactics of the UCK (KLA). This latter he shows to have been hyped up by the media in their keenness to expose the “shadowy” nature of their army. However, he quotes Tim Judah's finding that by the end of November 1997 there were “barely 200 UCK” members (p250).

In pointing out that far fewer would have been needed to prevent the conflict had it not been for the “failure to esteem and reward those who rejected the war option” (p214), Clark comments that by end of 1999 there were 325 international agencies in Prishtina, 48,000 international soldiers and 4,700 international civilian police (for a population of 2m people).

A final chapter includes a Balance Sheet on Civil Resistance , where he suggests that the 1990's have added to Johan Galtung's tripartite division of peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding, a fourth dimension: peace enforcement. Posing the question “Was the nonviolence of Rugova and the Democratic League of Kosova a mistake?” to Veton Surroi (founder and publisher of radical Kosovar newspapers and delegate at Rambouillet), he observed that it gave time for the world to observe what was going on in Kosova and also that it allowed for an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary change.

This book will be an invaluable text for everyone who wishes to understand the possibility of conflict transformation, and negotiation with an adversary; and especially for students of peace studies and nonviolence.

Clear maps and a concise Chronology (leaping from 1389 to 1878), ending with June 1999 and a list of acronyms precede the text. A useful list of “Leading Characters” is also supplied.

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