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Western Press Review: Roles Of Milosevic In Kosovo And Kabila In Congo

  • Elizabeth Weinstein

Prague, 5 August 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary today again focuses on developments in Kosovo and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's role in recent atrocities in the region. Some analysts say that the West has been too accommodating to Milosevic and too willing to turn its back on the growing number of atrocities in Kosovo. Other commentators examine the unsteady political situation in the giant African nation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and why its president, Laurent Kabila, may face revolt from some of his original supporters.

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: An abusive government in Belgrade will be a constant threat to Kosovo

The International Herald Tribune today carries a commentary by Fred Abrahams accusing the West, in his word, of "winking" at Serbian atrocities in Kosovo. Abrahams says that there will be no stability in the Balkans as long as Yugoslav President Milosevic remains in power. He writes: "The man who started these conflicts cannot be trusted to stop them. There will be no lasting peace as long as Yugoslavia remains an undemocratic state with Mr. Milosevic at the helm." He goes on: "Even if the (Kosovo ethnic) Albanians agree to autonomy, as the U.S. government is pressing them to do, there is no guarantee that Mr. Milosevic would end his repressive rule in Kosovo, or that he would not again revoke Kosovo's status at some point in the future. An abusive government in Belgrade will be a constant threat to the region." Abrahams also urges that the U.S. should move to have Milosevic indicted, then continue to cultivate democratic alternatives in Serbia and Montenegro. He says all options for Kosovo's political status should be considered as long as they guarantee rights for Albanians and Serbs.

The commentary concludes: "Admittedly, strong action against Mr. Milosevic is a bad message to send to armed insurgencies with separatist agendas around the world. But equally bad is the current message to Mr. Milosevic and other aggressive dictators that their violence will be tolerated by the international community in the name of territorial integrity."

GUARDIAN: It is time to say no

Britain's Guardian carries an editorial calling Milosevic a "devious destroyer." It says the humanitarian disaster in Kosovo has received only a muted reaction from the outside world and that the West's passivity is only encouraging Milosevic to carry out his repressive military tactics. The paper writes: "On the political front, the West has also been giving encouragement to Mr. Milosevic by its constant insistence that there can be no independence for Kosovo. The Contact Group of five Western governments and Russia has been drafting, under British leadership, a range of possible autonomy options for the Serb-run province." The editorial then asks: "Who would run the police? What sort of electoral system might there be? How can minority rights be guaranteed? All fine and good --except that it rules out the one thing, independence which Mr. Milosevic's brutal war has made the vast majority of Albanians desire. They want out from under the Serb guns..." The Guardian concludes: "Unless the West changes the political thrust of its strategy and makes clear that it will no longer prejudge the future status of Kosovo, it will only produce what the cunning and deeply experienced Yugoslav leader is working towards. He wants us first to condone, and then with luck support his position. In this sun- and death-kissed August, it is time to say no."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Milosevic's record is astonishing

An analysis by the Los Angeles Times' columnist William Pfaff marvels at the consistent support Milosevic is receiving. Pfaff writes: "His record is astonishing, and the Serbians' willingness to continue to support him is even more astonishing. He destroyed the multinational Yugoslavia Tito had preserved, in which the Kosovars enjoyed autonomous status. He preached Serbian nationalism, and his state television and press diabolized Kosovars, Croatians and Moslems." Pfaff goes on: "He terminated Kosovo's autonomy, and condemned the dignified non-violent movement the Kosovo Albanians created in protest....His intransigence eventually resulted in the creation of the Kosovo Liberation Army that now fights for Kosovo's independence -- or according to some, for its union with Albania."

Pfaff concludes that Milosevic's success so far may stem from the fact that the West is confused about how he operates. He says: "The West's rather desperate diplomatic efforts to restart negotiations have run into Milosevic's rejection, until now, of interference, and the lack of someone to talk to on the Kosovo side: of someone, that is, who can speak for the Liberation Army. No one knows who controls it. Kosovars outside the country, presumably, but in what relationship with Albanian political figures? Arms and recruits transit through Albania."

LE MONDE: Western powers must recognize military pressure is the only way

The French daily Le Monde believes that Western powers and the warring sides must recognize two facts about Milosevic before they can move on to negotiations: Its editorial says: "The first is that the promises from Slobodan Milosevic are full of cunning and false luster. His promises inspire very limited confidence. The second is that they recognize that military pressure is the only way to make an impression on the Yugoslav President. Otherwise there is the risk that a catastrophe similar to the one in Bosnia will take place ..."

NEW YORK TIMES: Kabila's plight is mainly the result of his own mistakes

Commentators today also question Congo President Laurent Kabila's leadership after one year in power. A New York Times editorial says Kabila has "squandered" his political opportunities. It says Kabila now faces a military revolt because he formed his power base too narrowly. The New York Times writes: "Kabila's plight is mainly the result of his own mistakes. Carried to power by a military insurgency, he based his regime on a narrow clique of supporters, made up largely of Rwandan military men who had helped him to victory and eastern Congolese from the Tutsi minority. It continues: "Kabila's supporters proved more interested in eliminating their tribal enemies in eastern border areas than in establishing a democratic political system. To shield these supporters, Kabila obstructed U.N. efforts to investigate alleged tribal massacres. In the course of doing so, he misled U.S. diplomats and betrayed commitments to (Washington) that he would permit a fair investigation." The editorial concludes: "With the new insurgency advancing rapidly, Kabila's best hope for rallying support lies in broadening and democratizing his rule. But his record to date provides no basis for optimism."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Rwanda will not look on idly if the Tutsi in eastern Congo come under pressure

A commentary by Michael Birnbaum in Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung. Birnbaum says that the Banyamulenge Tutsi in eastern Congo are revolting against Kabila's shaky regime because they don't trust him. Birnbaum writes: "Kabila, a rebel without an army of his own, used the Banyamulenge and, above all, their Tutsi cousins from over the border in Rwanda to help him win his military campaign against Mobutu's army. But once Mobutu had been ousted he began to feel that the Tutsi, traditionally unpopular in the Congo, were (unnecessary). A week ago he felt powerful enough to rid himself of them and ordered their withdrawal. The commentary continues: "However, he has failed to keep his word to either the Congo's ethnic Tutsi minority or his Tutsi backers in Rwanda -- his word to ensure their survival as an ethnic minority in the region." Birnbaum then warns that Kabila faces mass revolt from his former supporters. He concludes: "Rwanda will not look on idly if the Tutsi in eastern Congo come under pressure. Total war will then be an imminent prospect, with secession of Kivu province from the Congo as its objective."