INFORMATION UPDATE – Number 93
11th December, 2001
Late last week, debate on a law for local government reached an impasse: PDP and DPA were against further amendments, while SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE saw more amendments as the only solution. As a result of the inability of the Parliament to agree on an acceptable law, on Friday, 7th December the donors’ conference that had been loosely scheduled for 20th December, was postponed again. On Sunday, 9th December a meeting was held between President Trajkovski and Mssrs Crvenkovski, Georgievski, Imeri, and Xhaferi – the four signatories of August’s Ohrid Agreement – in an attempt to facilitate progress on the stumbling block of local government; they agreed to invite specialist help with the drafting of the law on local government. On the same day, special EU envoy, Alain le Roy, stated that experts from the World Bank, USAID, and the Council of Europe will assist in the revision of this controversial legislation. All being well, Mr le Roy foresees a new donors’ conference date for January.
Using his presidential powers, another twenty-two former NLA members have been pardoned by Mr Trajkovski on top of the first eleven, leaving 55 men of the original 88 imprisoned men ready for processing by the President’s office. Former NLA leader, Ali Ahmeti, has called on Parliament to pass the proposed law on amnesty.
Following an agreement between the governmental Crisis Management Centre (CMC), OSCE, and EUMM the re-entry of police to another 15 villages (the second phase of the plan to re-deploy police to the former crisis areas in addition to the five pilot villages) will proceed on Thursday, 13th December following a green light from the 15 villages’ leaders/administrators. Ethnically mixed police units will re-enter three villages in the Gostivar region, seven villages in the Tetovo region, two villages in the Skopje region and three villages in the Kumanovo region. Re-entry to the three villages Ropalce, Nikuštak, and Vistica in Kumanovo region is conditioned on the dismantling of three police checkpoints and two army checkpoints in this region; an army checkpoint was dismantled on 10th December. The distribution of a leaflet from the CMC informing people in the villages about the implementation of the President’s ‘amnesty declaration’ began on 10th December and will continue this week as well as meetings with local administrators, and political and community leaders of the affected villages.
UNHCR continues to monitor and implement the distribution of firewood in the crisis regions. With the onset of winter, this issue is at the forefront of activities. With the close of the year, more and more UNHCR-backed Shelter and Quick Impact Projects are coming to a successful conclusion with a number of official hand-overs to local municipalities scheduled. So far 24 QIPs and 1,680 homes are being completed, including homes in the Bitola region.
No fresh movements have been reported.
Freedom of Movement Facilitation (Bus lines)
The UNHCR bus line Skopje-Raduša continues to be suspended following events of 30th November. The train service running Skopje-Raduša-Tetovo is scheduled to commence commercially on 12th December, though no schedule has been announced. Information on planned schedules has been made available today. It is hoped that the train can replace the need for the UNHCR bus.
A further six bus lines continue to operate in the Skopje, Tetovo, and Kumanovo areas, without problems. A bus line to run Tetovo-Lisec, a troubled village and scene of fierce fighting 4 km NW of Tetovo, has been confirmed, and the service begins today.
A further request for a Skopje-Tetovo bus line has been made for the purpose of conveying school children and factory workers.
Shelter & QIPs
The Shelter Programme is expected to be completed by 15th December. UNHCR mobile teams are continuing to monitor progress.
The first round of QIPs have been completed, and the rest are expected to be completed on time, by 31st December. From this week onwards, five technical hand-overs to local municipalities are to be concluded; the first being held on Monday, 10th December which saw the inauguration of (15 km NE of Tetovo) Odri’s water pipe – the completion of one of the QIP programmes as initiated by UNHCR.
UNHCR Field Team Reports
On 7th December, UNHCR visited two minors (14 and 17 years of age) who were released after receiving a pardoning in the recent list of those pardoned by presidential decree. One of the two stated that his father was still under detention while the younger one has two brothers who were allegedly killed during the August incident. Unless effective counselling could be organised within the CS framework, an IFRC (Albanian psychologist) would be contacted for appropriate counselling.
On the same day, a firewood distribution was conducted at the village of Ratae, and a list of IDPs residing at Sinđelić has been received from the hodža. A needs assessment is to be conducted.
A visit was also made to Ljuboten (15 km N of Skopje central) where the situation is normal. Based on confirmation of information received from Solidarité that the water tank has to be kept dry for repair works, a UNHCR water tanker will make two daily rounds to this village. Repair works are expected to be completed in 2-3 days.
On 7th December, the firewood list for the Tetovo suburbs of Bratstvo and Edinstvo was prepared and the continuation of firewood distribution monitoring duties at Nerašte (17 km NE from Tetovo).
UNHCR took 3 trucks to Šipkovica on 10th December with 200 chairs, 100 desks, and some different toys for the schools in Šipkovica and Brodec.
Also on 10th December, UNHCR had a meeting with OSCE Tetovo (in charge of the Municipality of Jegunovce). Briefly, in Šemševo there is a mixed police patrol in the village operating without any problem. Currently, the ethnic Albanian police is uniformed and the rest of the Macedonians are reservists. Daily patrolling of this force is from 0800-1400. The check point is still not dismantled due to close proximity of the villages of Žilče and Ratae (both Macedonian villages).
The JugoHrom factory located at Jegunovce is due to close down by January 2002; this is of great importance as many people in the locality are employed by this ailing metal processing plant. Employees have not received their salaries since June 2001.
Also on 10th December, 20 km SE of Tetovo, a visit was conducted to the village of Kopanica (120-30 Albanian households/60 Macedonian households – total population of 1,200-300). The Albanian population is mainly engaged in construction work and in agriculture, though many work abroad.
After which, a visit to Preljubište (15 km NE of Tetovo) was made. The population consists of 90 houses with approximately 410 habitants, 70 families. The village was not directly affected with the war crises. The majority of the population is unemployed; rather, they cultivate their land though less than a third of land is used for the cultivation of beans, corn, potatoes, and peppers as the land is poor. A small percentage of the population is working in the JugoHrom and Teteks factories with a low monthly salary.
Schooling is provided by an Elementary School located in the middle of the village. The children of the Macedonian inhabitants are attending the school for the 1st to 4th grade. 8 children attending grades 5 to 8 grade are continuing their schooling at Šemševo. The events of this year had prompted children to move to school in Jegunovce.
For the needs of the health care and consultations the people from this village are going to the Public Ambulanta in the village of Šemševo.
The re-validation/registration by the Macedonian Red Cross (MRC) is continuing and final figures are to be announced officially during the course of the week.
Refugees in Kosovo and FRY, Returns
An estimated 12,000 refugees remain in Kosovo as the number of returns are minimal.
Up to 900 refugees reportedly reside in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, mostly in the Preševo Valley, southern Serbia.
Security Situation in Brief
Over the weekend of 8th and 9th December, there were reports of increased shootings in both the Tetovo and Kumanovo areas. Tetovo also saw a number of incidents of the weekend, including several explosions near the South-east Europe university and Teteks factory checkpoint. There was a fire at the Church of Sv. Gjorgji on Saturday evening, in the village of Mala Rečica, a couple of km SW of Tetovo.
This was followed by news of a mosque having been burned on Monday 10th December in Bitola. According to the mayor of Bitola, there are only minor damages. Causes for both fires remain merely speculative at this stage.
In the Kumanovo area over the weekend, a checkpoint at Alaševce was attacked and exchanges of fire were reported.
Shots fired at vehicles on the Tetovo-Jažince road, near Lešok, and along the Tetovo-Gostivar road were reported.