Rambouillet - A Process Analysis

TFF PressInfo 56

 February 21, 1999


"The Plan being discussed at Rambouillet is a formalistic, legal document. Its provisions may be needed, but it doesn't contain any ideas on how to make peace among the citizens who are to live with it when implemented. Their voice is not heard, their needs are not dealt with in the Plan. Most of the delegates in Rambouillet are not representative of the citizens. The "mediators" have no professional education as mediators. The idea that Kosovo's problems can be solved in two weeks is absurd. Rambouillet militates against all we know about human psychology and trust-building.

So, once again politics fool media and media fool world public opinion. And people in Kosovo will have to wait for peace as long as the vagabonds in Beckett's drama wait for Godot..." says Dr. Jan Oberg upon returning from TFF's 34th mission to ex-Yugoslavia, this time to Skopje, Belgrade and the troubled Kosovo province.


1. The preparation

When wars are fought thousands of trained soldiers are mobilised, highly trained experts and sophisticated technologies activated. When peace is to be created, the world lets one man - in the case of Kosovo, US ambassador Christopher Hill with a few assistants - shuttle back and forth between some of the parties. When Yugoslavia insisted on Kosovo being an integral part of its territory and the Albanians insisted that it is their independent state, ambassador Hill drew a line - not a circle or a ball - and explained to them, not unlike a father to two quarrelling children: "The compromise I allow you is 'self-government.' He thought that was fair, that this would be in the interests of the parties. Thus, he and the Contact Group set up the framework for the future of Kosovo's 1,5 million or so inhabitants and the rest of Yugoslavia, around 10 million people. Nobody ask THEM how they would like the future to be.


2. The process

Perhaps it is all too complex but there are not only the Serbian and Yugoslav governments in Belgrade and the Albanians in Kosovo. Presumably, 15-20% of the people in Kosovo are NOT Albanians. The Kosovo Serbs have not been given an opportunity to voice their independent opinion. Cynically speaking, of course, that doesn't matter much because nobody, least of all the 'conflict managers' in Rambouillet, expect them to stay in areas of Kosovo under 'self-governing' Albanian majority rule. No Serbs live in areas now controlled by KLA.

The fatal mistake was to believe that negotiations will create trust. They won't. It works the other way: some trust-building must happen BEFORE people meet at the negotiation table.


3. The threats

All this - predictably - did not work. The Contact group then issued ultimatums and put NATO's prestige at stake: Come to Rambouillet, sign our document, or face air-strikes. Air-strikes! ? Everyone knows, tacitly of course, that that is exactly what KLA would like to see happen, because KLA does not have the kind of installations - depots, airfields, ammunition factories, air-defence systems and the like - so it can't be bombed. The threat targets the Serb side only - which has not made them more willing to sign anything.

Last autumn, ambassador Holbrooke forgot to tell the President Milosevic that NATO would set up an "extraction force" in neighbouring Macedonia aimed to intervene on Serbian soil and "extract" the 2000 OSCE "verifiers." Yugoslavia sees that as an act of aggression. Incrementally, the Contact Group and NATO then agreed that any agreement in Rambouillet would require around 30.000 NATO ground troops on the territory of the sovereign state of Yugoslavia which all the Group's member states recognised as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, FRY, with Kosovo inside it - just a few years ago.

The message to Belgrade from the Contact Group and NATO is: "If you sign, you'll get NATO ground troops. If you don't sign you'll get air-strikes and NATO ground troops!" One should hardly expect that this sort of bullying leads to trust, co-operation and compliance. It is not the first time the international community threatens someone to sign a paper and then play it surprised when that party is not in "full compliance." In short, NATO has trapped itself: it can not back down from its demand to deploy ground troops and it can not deploy them as a peace-keeper but only as an invasion and occupation force.


4. The Plan

The plan deals with government structure, territorial status, communes, assemblies, competences, presidential matters, administration, courts, ombudsman, human rights, councils, monitoring, police and security, extradition of war criminals, law enforcement, crowd and traffic control, police operations, border security, arrest and detention, elections. In short, it is a fine legal document. But important dimension are absent.

There is nothing about postwar physical-economic reconstruction, employment, investments, (better) schools, hospitals, theatres, or media. There is no mention of local NGOs and civil society, of socio-psychological healing, nothing about a truth commission, reconciliation, teaching the young peace and conflict resolution, or training professionals and politicians in negotiation. The local cultures are not mirrored anywhere in the document. The role of women as peace-makers is forgotten. And the specific problem of the very high proportion of children and youth below the age of 20 is not even mentioned. There is nothing about peace zones, alternative defence, new Balkan co-operative structures. There is no wider framework, no awareness of this conflict's intimate connections with the region.


5. The delegates

The Serb delegation consist of some lawyers and party people from Belgrade and virtually unknown representatives of various small minorities in the region. Conspicuously, those who do represent the Kosovo Serbs such as Momcilo Trajkovic, Father Sava, Bishop Artemije and those who have creative ideas about future co-existence in Kosovo such as professor Batakovic - were all left in the cold outside Rambouillet. Belgrade did not ask them to join the delegation.

The Albanian delegation is headed by KLA, the Kosovo Liberation Army, which has no legitimate legal status in the independent republic of Kosova created, as it was, to be a neutral state with no army and with open borders. The establishment and activities of KLA was never endorsed by the Kosovo-Albanian parliament or by President Rugova who, according to Kosova's constitution and elections, is the legitimate leader of the self-proclaimed republic. According to Serb sources, more of the KLA delegates are indicted for murder and did not have legal papers upon their departure for Rambouillet. Two intellectuals on the Albanian team represent nobody but were allegedly invited by Ambassador Hill and Foreign Secretary Cook - who did not invite similar people from the Serb side.


6. The mediators

The mediators are professional diplomats and ministers. There is no evidence that any of them ever took as much as a week-end course in conflict analysis, conflict psychology, creative conflict-resolution, mediation, conflict-transformation, reconciliation, forgiveness. None of them has a PhD in peace and conflict studies or related matters. If Orthodox priests are not allowed in, the question is whether there is any area expertise, anthropologists, Balkan experts present in Rambouillet. Finally - and not the least - it is all a men's game.


7. The timing

Who could believe that it would be done in one or maximum two weeks? Only someone who has a) learnt nothing from the Dayton process in Ohio and the Dayton process on the ground, b) is unable to see that Kosovo is a complex problem, c) ignores the depth of people's problems and suffering for decades or d) has another agenda - such as seeing NATO troops on the ground before the Alliance's 50th anniversary in April.


8. The "negotiations"

The basics of the Plan is not negotiable. It's a fait accompli. An anonymous U.S. State Department official said before the delegations arrived that only 20% in the margins could be discussed.


9. The credits

Rambouillet is a stage where the conflicts inside EU and between EU and the United States are played out. The basis for the document on the table is the plan developed by US Ambassador Hill, and the conference is co-chaired by France and England with a Russian mediator. U.S. Secretary of State, Madam Albright, was elegantly granted the diplomatic 'victory' of bringing the delegation leaders face-to-face for the first time in a week. If they could not sit at the same table during the first week in Rambouillet, you may wonder how they can, together, reach and implement an agreement.


10. The result

Most likely, the parties will sign the document, one way or another, with reservations. However, KLA will not accept being disarmed and Belgrade will not accept ground troops. No one wants to be first out as the 'bad guys.' There may be secret deals or protocols. They will then also DE-SIGN the document - i.e. tell the press and their fellow-citizens that they interpret the difficult parts in their own particular way, no matter what the others say and do. Both sides will say that "we did not yield" and "we got what we wanted - if not right now, later." Only then begins the implementation and the compliance games. Soon one or both sides will not be "in compliance" and the bombs fall. If KLA refuses to sign, NATO has little leverage. To disarm KLA it needs to get into Kosovo. This means bombing and invasion.


11. The morals

All this happens when the international community turns a blind eye to Turkey's repeated incursions into a neighbouring state. In Algeria, 30 times more people have been killed than in Kosovo with no international intervention. Tens of thousands have died in Africa with no bombings. No legal, sovereign government anywhere with secessionist movements on its territory would accept to be bombed for adhering to its status as recognised state - least of all the West.

Director Oberg summarises: "The issue is NOT whether nasty wars and genocide must be stopped. The issue is how it can be done. The issue is whether the 'conflict managers' agenda is "clean" or they take advantage of conflicts and human tragedies to cynically promote power politics - and, thereby, prepare wars in the future (as argued in PressInfo 55). Conflicts can be handled in many and different ways, the Dayton- and Rambouillet method is certainly not the only one.

The international community lacks criteria - even a discussion - about good versus bad conflict-management in the post-Cold War environment. Most people only blame the conflicting parties if peace fails, but we must also ask: Did we, the internationals, contribute to the conflicts in the first place, historically? Who can serve as mediators without mixed motives and hidden agendas? Are the peace plans we impose at all good? What can we learn from earlier peace processes?

Rambouillet is absurd theatre. Professional peace-makers and mediators know you cannot make peace that way. The whole process militates against what is known about human psychology, trust and co-operation. But the media will continue to call this type of theatre "peace negotiations" and thereby free the international community from co-responsibility for the failure. The poor, suffering citizens of Kosovo will have to wait for peace as long as the vagabonds do for Godot in Samuel Beckett's classical drama," Jan Oberg concludes twelve hours before the deadline at the castle.

© TFF 1999

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