Peace prospects

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 February, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 February, 2000, 12:00am

Just months ago, Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic was besieged in Belgrade by massive throngs of people demanding his removal. Today he remains in power, apparently unassailable, and using all his old tactics of divide and rule to bring the country to a state of anarchy.

In the town of Mitrovica, where Serbs and Albanians are divided north and south, hatred and mistrust are increasing and peace-keeping forces are only just succeeding in keeping them apart. Mr Milosevic has full control on the Serbian side of the river, and his strategy is plain. He aims to make it impossible to get the peacekeepers out, and hand over to civilian authorities.

The prospect of building a tolerant multi-ethnic culture in a town where both communities are equally brutish looks like an impossible dream at present.

Unless Nato and the United Nations reach a quick decision on a way to calm tensions in the region, the situation will become intractable. Troops cannot be stationed in Mitrovica indefinitely, even if there was the money and a willingness to keep them there. While an ethnically mixed community is unattainable, the only remaining alternatives are either to partition the province of Kosovo, or arrange a mass migration on both sides.

None of these is the ideal solution, but both are an improvement on the present state of affairs.

Attention has to be focused on rebuilding the economy and therefore giving the people more to think about than how to avenge themselves for the sins of yesterday and long forgotten centuries by yet more banditry, arson and murder.

Nations that lived together in peace under the late General Tito can do so again, in spite of the horrors that have taken place since Yugoslavia's disintegration in 1991. But that calls for decisive political action.

Until it is forthcoming, the man in the driving seat is President Milosevic.