Recent murders shock Kosovo
On Saturday 9 September, all of Kosovo observed a "Day Against Violence," with marches and rallies taking place in the major cities to mark the occasion. UN Administrator Bernard Kouchner, along with all of the Albanian and non-Albanian leaders, appealed to the people to stop the violence that is putting Kosovo's future in danger.
But, it was to no avail, as two people were murdered in their homes on 10 and 11 September. An Albanian journalist, Shefki Popova, 50, was shot to death in the town of Vuštri, north of Priština. Popova worked for the Albanian-language daily Rilindja for 26 years and also contributed to the radio station, which carries the same name. He was well-known for reporting two years ago during the Albanians' struggle against Belgrade.
The second victim was Rexhep Luci, a Kosovor Albanian, who worked for the local municipal building commission. Luci, the head of the Department of Housing and Reconstruction in the regional capital Priština, was found dead in front of his apartment building with multiple bullet wounds to his chest. Luci was a well-known architect working at the municipal administration for some three decades.
Luci had been involved in a UN-led process to demolish illegally constructed buildings in Kosovo. Officials in the UN-governed province have launched tougher inspections into the rampant construction of illegal housing across Kosovo. A series of demolition orders were issued this month. UN officials said the inspection process would not be slowed by Luci's murder.
Local election campaign begins
The election campaign for the Kosovo municipal authorities' vote, scheduled for 28 October, was officially launched on Wednesday 13 September. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Kosovo, which is spearheading the efforts of the international community in organizing the local elections in Kosovo, said almost 5500 candidates have been certified by the Central Election Commission (CEC) to compete in Kosovo's municipal vote. Of that number, over 1300 are female candidates.
The Director of Election Operations, Jeff Fischer, said 750 international observers have already been assigned to supervise the 28 October elections. However, he noted that the number is not sufficient and that other staff was needed.
The IOM Out of Kosovo Elections office in Vienna is dispatching some 38,100 registration certificates to Kosovors, who had registered with the IOM for the municipal elections. The final list of voters will be published at the end of this month, OSCE officials said.
Political parties kicked off their electoral campaigns with meetings and rallies. Bernard Kouchner, who also attended Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo meeting, promised that he would be with all the parties during the campaign. "I will tell all the candidates that the international community is here to help you, but the violence and killings must stop. These elections will be a victory of tolerance and democracy; it will be your victory," Kouchner said.
The Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Daan Everts, issued a strong warning against the risk of violence marring the elections and demanded strict adherence to the Code of Conduct, to which all the political entities have signed up.
More NATO troops
NATO will increase the number of its troops in Kosovo, in order to bolster security prior to the 24 September Yugoslav elections and also to ensure stability during Kosovo's municipal elections next month. Additional contingents of 2400 troops from Britain, Italy, Greece and France will be deployed throughout the province to deal with possible violence. About 36,000 Nato-led peacekeepers are currently stationed in Kosovo.
The request to increase the number of troops was made by NATO's supreme commander in Europe, General Joseph W Ralston, because of national elections to be held in Yugoslavia on 24 September.
Ivanović supports Kostunica
Mitrovica Serb leader Oliver Ivanović said he would vote for Serb opposition candidate Vojislav Kostunica in Yugoslavia's 24 September presidential elections. This is contrary to his previous stance to disregard the Serbian elections.
Meanwhile, following rumours that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosević might visit Kosovo, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson said Wednesday that if he goes to Kosovo as part of his national election campaign, NATO-led forces will immediately arrest him.
Polio vaccination in Kosovo
In a joint venture by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Kosovo National Institute of Health, as many as 100,000 Kosovor children will be vaccinated against polio this month. The first round of vaccinations will be conducted from 14 through 18 September, and children will get the second dose one month later. The vaccination campaign will cover six Kosovo municipalities: Priština, Štime, Podujeva, Gjilan, Peja and Mitrovica, he said.
USD ten million for training
Minister for International Co-operation Maria Minna and Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy announced a USD ten million project to train teachers in Kosovo, with a special emphasis on peacebuilding. The contribution from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) will be used over two years to help strengthen the educational system in Kosovo.
The teacher training program will concentrate on a child-centred approach and will be designed to contain modules on ethnic tolerance, human rights and democracy. It will benefit Kosovo's 23,000 primary and secondary teachers, of whom almost 80 percent do not have training.
More than 130 United Nations personnel and international peacekeeping (KFOR) troops in Kosovo battled through Tuesday night and Wednesday morning to contain a deadly acid leak at the Trepca industrial plant in southern Mitrovica.
The operation began on Tuesday, when a ruptured inlet pipe to a tank containing 600,000 litres of sulphuric acid began to leak at the rate of about 100 litres per minute. Despite the use of nearly 50 tons of lime and additional cement and sand brought in from all over Kosovo, some acid reached the nearby Sitnica River. Further supplies of lime were being trucked to the plant on Friday, and the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) has warned local residents to keep away from the water near the Trepca complex.
The area, known as the "industrial park," housed a battery factory and zinc and cadmium production facilities but is in a state of disrepair, due to poor maintenance and a disastrous fire that swept through the battery facility earlier this year.
UNMIK has drawn up contingency plans to deal with emergencies in the complex and, ironically, an emergency exercise involving the effects of an acid leak was scheduled for this week.
Worker kills three
Swiss charity Caritas said on Monday that one of its local workers in Kosovo killed three people in a row over construction supplies being used to rebuild the village of Ložnica, near the provincial capital Priština. The man shot a man and his two sons, on Friday. The Swiss branch of the Roman Catholic aid agency is involved in rebuilding programs in 15 other Kosovo villages.
Llazar Semini, 15 September 2000
Based in Priština, Llazar Semini is Kosova Project Manager for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.
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