Saturday, June 30, 2007

Vetevendosje Protests

Vetevendosje (Self-Determination Group) held a peaceful protest today starting at 1400 CET.  The group marched from the headquarters in Pejton to the Grand Hotel where leaders made a couple short comments.  Then the group proceeded to the Government Building where they destroyed pumpkin-headed effigies of the Kosovo Unity Team (Kosovo Albanian negotiators for independence) and then tossed toilet paper over the fence of the government.  Afterwards, the crowd, reported as 600-strong in the media but actually probably more like 300 from what I witnessed, went down Police Avenue to the UN Mission HQ where they threw a wooden framed box over the wall that said "Take this package and go to hell" on the side.  After the protestors left, KPS pushed the package outside the gates about 10m to the nearby dumpsters.
The St. Vitus' Day celebrations went without incident.  The police searched the buses and confiscated "inflammatory" t-shirts.  By our estimates, there were probably around 1000 people at the celebration even though the news reports only said hundreds.  In Mitrovica, a new statue was unveiled but the SRSG did not approve the inscription as it was provocative.  I'm going to try to go see the new statue which is said to be of an angel with some sort of lights.  The SRSG also issued an executive order the day before the celebrations banning the Guard of Tsar Lazar from attending the festivities.

KPS has announced that it has broken up a criminal gang of Serbian KPS officers who were forcibly stopping vehicles in the Kosovo Polje and Gracanica area and robbing their victims of vehicles, cash, and other valuables.  Three officers were arrested and a fourth remains at large.  The group has been operating since 2000 which makes one wonder what they got away with over the past seven years!

Over the past week, I've been reading a series of articles published in English from Sweden.  At best, the articles are very critical of the UN in Kosovo as well as many of the staff.  In regards to the accusations about UN-staff ripping off landlords, I know that the police officers must have a statement signed by their landlords that the bills are paid before they are allowed to check-out.  I am going to check with our office to see if regular UN-staff are required to do the same.  And despite what the author alleges is the UN's ignorance of landlord's claims, the UN does hold a portion of the staff's final salary which can go towards the payment of any landlord claims after the person's departure.  I did feel that the picture the author painted of UN staff was a bit unfair as I know many that are working to make Kosovo a better place and busting their butts to help the local population...sure there are some that don't care about Kosovo but to say everyone is the same isn't right.  I'm also not exactly sure when or where the author stayed in Kosovo but there aren't severe power problems for about the past six months as was described so it makes me wonder if the author wasn't just over-exaggerating many things.  Yes in the past there have been power problems but if the articles were really written last month (25 June is the date displayed), the author wouldn't have experienced continuous power outages other than one day when KEK was working on Kosovo B.  Anyways, the articles are interesting so I'd like to share the articles titled Colonial Kosovo.