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Thursday, July 1, 1999 Published at 02:56 GMT 03:56 UK

Eyewitness: A mixed peace

Normality remains relative in Kosovo

By Duncan Kennedy in Pristina

The British troops thought they had seen it all when they found a Kosovo Liberation Army member directing traffic in the Kosovan capital, Pristina, in his army uniform.

Kosovo: Special Report
As the order had gone out to round up all members of the KLA still wearing their uniforms, he was not doing it for long.

This arrest was just one example, the British army says, of its control over the security situation in this sector of Kosovo.

The military spokesmen now use the word "normal" to describe many aspects of life here.

Pristina's buses are about to start a service again, they say. The cafes are full. The water flows - most of the time.

And Mr Kamal, our local all-round helper even brings us deep pan pizza.

Kidnapped Serbs

It's all true. And yet it does not quite give the full picture.

[ image: Serbs watch a K-For patrol pass]
Serbs watch a K-For patrol pass
According to the same army sources around 90 Serb residents of the capital have been kidnapped by ethnic Albanians in the past two weeks.

Nobody knows what has happened to them.

The burning of Serb and Gypsy homes are a daily grotesque spectacle here and across the province.

In my last visit to the western town of Pec I stood and watched an entire street of Serb homes burn, while looters busied themselves loading their tractor trailers with the booty of the now evicted residents.

When Italian troops arrived some 30 minutes later, they stayed for precisely the time it took for them to turn around their armoured patrol carriers.

The looters did not even bother to hurry away in shame or fear.

A day or so later the matter was raised at a news conference.

How many arrests had the Italians made in their sector? Knowing the situation in Pec there was a ripple of laughter among the assembled scribes and broadcasters.

The journalist, who asked the question, was accused of being sarcastic by the K-For spokesman, who also failed to give an answer.

Different approaches

In any confusing situation like this, it is difficult to generalise about the security situation.

[ image: Coachloads of refugees are returning to Kosovo]
Coachloads of refugees are returning to Kosovo
Some K-For units are apparently more active than others.

Thirty years of urban patrolling in the streets of Northern Ireland have given British troops invaluable experience in dealing with difficult ethnic, cultural and religious problems.

They are seen walking every where. They wear berets not helmets. Others seem less sure, preferring to stay in the security of their armoured vehicles in full combat uniform.

Bit by bit things are changing .The number of murders in the capital has fallen from 12 a day, two weeks ago, to none in the past few days.

Nine judges and prosecutors, including some Serbs, have just been appointed to help re-establish a judicial system.

Thirty-five United Nations policemen have arrived, the first of a batch of 3,000 heading this way to ease the transition to civilian rule.

Complicating factors

Some say it's safer here now than before the war but the messages are conflicting.

A complicating factor remains how to use the soldiers of the KLA. There are accusations of them being involved in the intimidation of Serbs.

Not so say their commanders, whilst admitting they can only account for the whereabouts of half their estimated 20,000-strong fighting force.

As the KLA demobilises there is talk of turning them into a national guard, or retraining them with civilian skills.

Then there are the returning ethnic Albanian refugees.

So far, 500,000 are back and 400,000 more are still to come.

Most are law abiding, if dispirited, individuals intent only on restoring their lives but some are angry and in vengeful mood.

Circle of violence

In one Serb village I visited, all the homes had been broken into by ethnic Albanians.

As we entered one I struggled to control the feeling of nausea that swelled in my stomach as the smell of rotting animals and worse enveloped my nostrils.

We spotted some Albanian neighbours across the field. Did they know anything about the Serbs' houses, I asked.

No, they said, as they pointed to the bullet holes in the walls and windows of their own homes left, they say, by the Serbs' own touring party of gun-weilding paramilitaries.

The circular inevitability of the violence and counter-violence is depressingly apparent here. Everyone is right, nobody is wrong.

And the man directing traffic?

He is now one of more than 200 people languishing in the newly-established detention centres set up by K-For for crimes ranging from his minor misdemeanour to alleged mass murder.

The peace is truly being won here, it is just that some are sharing a bigger piece of it than others.

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