Demilitarization in Kosovo: A story of “success”


The DDR in Kosovo was incorporated within the peace-agreements that ended the war of former Yugoslav Army against ethnic Albanians in June 1999. Typical for 1st Generation, the DDR programs were used as strategies for creating the new political institutions and security structures that led Kosovo to independence in 2008.

In fact it was Kumanova Agreement signed between NATO and the Yugoslav Army in June 1999 that sought to address the problem of demilitarization and reintegration of Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) combatants in order to reduce the short-term threats to internal security and to guarantee the security of international personnel. This agreement was incorporated into the Security Council Resolution 1244 that explicitly called for “the demilitarization and demobilization of the KLA and other armed Kosovo Albanian groups.” (Articles 9.b & 15) An additional document titled “Undertaking for Demilitarization and Transformation by KLA”, signed by NATO and KLA commanders set a timeframe–three months within which the demilitarization and demobilization was to be achieved (Article 23(h).

Initially, between 8,000 -10,000, and later on – 25,723 registered combatants were demobilized (Barakat & Ozerdem, 2005:30), and almost 10,000 small arms were surrendered. Yet, 5.5 million rounds of ammunition and several hundred mortars, machine guns and anti-tank weapons, as ICG reported in 1999, remained hidden. As the process of DD ended, a new military force was to be formed, as the former KLA leaders insisted in a “due course, as part of a political process designed to determine Kosovo’s future status.” KLA must be the cellule of future Kosovo army (The Guardian, September 1999). Thus, in 2000, KLA was transformed into Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC)–a civilian emergency organization for rapid disaster in times of emergency and humanitarian assistance (Kosovo Constitutional Framework).

The United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and KFOR (De Lellio, 2005) entrusted the selection, recruitment and training of the KPC to the International Organization of Migration (IOM). As agreed, the ex- combatants were given a preferential access in KPC and Kosovo Police Service (KPS) meaning that they were inevitably a “specific beneficiary group.” (Barakat&Ozerdem, 2005; 32) Out of 5,000 KPC members, between 60-65 percent were former KLA combatants, and about 25 percent out of 7000 Kosovo Police officers were former KLA members (Janssens, 2015;138). Meanwhile, the high-level commanders became part of the new temporary institutions.

The process of reintegration was considered as quite successful since it was inclusive, and as such, IOM avoided the creation of marginal and disgruntled groups (De Lellio, 2005). The caseloads operated under a unified command and control–male combatants formed the majority, only 3 percent was female. 16,229 persons were expected to require social and economic reintegration support; in addition, 90 percent of the KPC’s members were selected and trained in order to respond to disasters affecting the population of Kosovo. In total, 61 percent of the registered caseload, have received and are receiving long-term reintegration assistance in one form or another from IOM (Barakat& Ozerdem, 2005;30).

The DDR in Kosovo was unique, because it did not undergo the stages of Security Sector Reform (SSR) but the process was focused on the Security Sector Building (Qehaja& Kosumi), and it is considered as successful to be considered in other situations (De Lellio, 2005). However, there have been critiques about the involvement of majority of ex- combatants in the new structures, as a result of which a large portion remained united and under the same leadership (del Castillo, 2008; 154); the majority of commanding staff were KLA fighters within the same geographic area which made KPC inefficient and non-professional; and the problem with the integration of minorities (Qehaja&Kosumi). As del Castillo says, the productive reintegration of former combatants in fact did not take place, since UN did not insist to reintegrate them in productive activities–in private sector, as it did in El Salvador and Mozambique (del Castillo, 2008;154).

And lastly–the verification process of war veterans, incepted 15 years after the war went through several irregularities, such as including those who were not members of KLA. The verification process has just closed: out of 66,300 applicants, 55,637 are recognized as contributors to the war. The beneficiary groups include: 26,274 recognized war veterans, 8,687 persons with the recognized status of member of KLA (Infocus). Other beneficiary groups, as the Law for Veterans states, include dependents, persons with disabilities, and martyrs. The monthly salary varies between 130-170 euros.

Another dilemma in Kosovo case is regarding the high rank commanders who are under investigations to have committed crimes against humanity, but they now are recognized as war veterans therefore eligible for benefits? The same leaders have been involved in organized crime and corruption – there is a situation when once heroes, now they are treated as criminals.

Sebahate J. Shala

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