Andrić-Rakić: Those killed were family men, they would not have brought conflict to their children’s doorstep if they thought there was another way out

„These are family men whose families live here. Those people would not have brought violence to their doorsteps, if they did not believe that there was no other way out,“ said Milica Andrić-Rakić, program manager at the New Social Initiative, commenting on the Kosovo Serbs being linked to the recent attack in Banjska.

According to Andrić-Rakić, no one in the north believes that they died defending the interests of smugglers or criminals, but that it was a political act. „That they resorted to violence in order to achieve political goals that they could not achieve, apparently, throughout a decade of dialogue.“

She underlined that there are greatly simplified narratives that „everything is ruled by crime“ in the north of Kosovo or that people there are “doing everything they are told to do.”

„Who leave Kosovo institutions when they are told to just because someone told them, and not because they have real human feelings.“

She also emphasized that we have entered a new phase, when we no longer talk using arguments, but violence.

In the night between Saturday and Sunday, in an ambush at the entrance to the village of Banjska in the north, a member of the Kosovo Police, Afrim Bunjaku, was shot dead, and three other police officers were wounded.

In a clash that broke out between the police and an armed uniformed group believed to be comprised of Serbs from the north, at least three alleged attackers were killed, while several of them were wounded and arrested. An arsenal of weapons, estimated by the Kosovo police to be worth 5 million euros, was seized. The village, which was under siege for three days, was opened up today, and the property of the Banjska monastery was also damaged, primarily when an armed group broke down the locked metal gate with an armored vehicle.

Belgrade denies any involvement, claiming that Serbs from the north „rebelled because they did not want to suffer Kurti’s terror and fell for his provocations.“

Pristina continues to place the blame on Serbian authorities.

„Helplessness“ that was „swept under the rug“ for a long time

„This has shaken the community to its core. People who are local, well-known, have died, this is a small community, the effect of that here is very powerful. People have been feeling very helpless for a long time. There have been warnings for a long time about the potential for the radicalization of society due to certain policies from Pristina, and this was pushed under the rug. Unfortunately, all these warnings have now come to fruition, and a real conflict has occurred that has led to the death of local residents and the death of a policeman,“ Milica Andrić-Rakić from the New Social Initiative, describing Sunday’s events.

Speaking for Studio live TV N1, she warned that the tragedy that happened is something that the two sides will find difficult to overcome.

I think that now the efforts for reintegration are practically meaningless as well as, I assume in Pristina, the efforts to continue the dialogue

Serbs in the north are confused. And while citizens expect answers about what exactly happened in Banjska, she added that their questions will probably remain unanswered.

„I think even the people here who have the best chance of understanding what happened won’t know what happened for a very long time. There are simply too many unknowns and too many emotions. There is a lot of fog around everything and there is a lot of doubt about all kinds of information that is arriving. Whatever comes, either from Pristina or Belgrade, it is simply expected that Belgrade and Pristina are in a kind of hybrid information war and there will be too much information that simply cannot be verified“.

No one questions the motivation of the dead – it’s a „political act“

„But what no one questions are the motivations of the people who died,“ emphasized Andrić-Rakić.

„No one here believes that they died defending the interests of smugglers or criminals. Everyone here believes that it was a political act. That they resorted to violence to achieve political goals. Political goals that they could not achieve, obviously, over many years, through a whole decade of dialogue,“ she specified.

Now, when blood has been shed for political purposes, it is very difficult to get things back to normal

Simplified narratives: Foreigners don’t understand all the drama

It will be too difficult to return to normal, she added. Although the first instinct is an urgent return to dialogue, Andrić Rakić points out that the international community still „does not fully understand how dramatic this event is“, just as in November „it did not understand the seriousness of the move to leave the institutions“.

„First, I think that a way will have to be found to stabilize the situation here, because there is too much risk of repeating some unpleasant events. Many people are furious, I believe that the police are also on edge. I doubt that they can keep a cool head in some situations that may arise in the future and, in general, we have entered a very dangerous period, where it will be necessary to either seriously work with the parties to stabilize this situation with very concrete steps, or critical situations will continue.“

When asked whether the murdered Serbs had previously been abused, Andrić-Rakić replied that they are family men.

„That goes for the people who died and the people who were arrested. These are family men whose families live here. These people would not have brought violence to their doorsteps, if they did not feel there was no other way out. And that is the first thing that we all have to face here, that the community is radicalized due to years and years of lack of concrete results in the dialogue and that there is potential for the potential manipulation of those feelings.“

She warns that this is precisely what is „repeatedly ignored“.

„Because there are very simplified narratives that in the north of Kosovo everything is controlled by crime or that people in the North of Kosovo are doing everything they are told to do and that they leave Kosovo’s institutions just because someone told them to, and not because they have real human feelings.“

„That these are people with emotions and that there is clearly a serious problem that has the potential for manipulation and for leading people on to take violent actions,“ she warned.

She expressed hope that the latest events will now clarify that it is a much more complex narrative.

„I can’t answer the question of whether they were manipulated, I can only tell you that every other person here says that they went into it with their hearts. What they believed they would achieve and whether they would have support or not, these are things that only they could answer, but here no one thinks that they had anything at heart other than political action. Some people believe that this is not the way to act politically, but I want to come back to this: Those people would not have brought conflict to their children’s doorstep if they thought there was another way out.”

From the phase of arguments to the phase of violence

This is what is repeatedly being ignored, she added, because „two truths can exist at the same time.“

„Someone can be a criminal and at the same time have a personal motive to participate in such acts, and Serbia can have an interest in the Kosovo Serbs leaving the institutions because they want a delay in the dialogue and at the same time the Kosovo Serbs want to leave the Kosovo institutions, because they were betrayed in the process of integration and believe that their life is worse because of integration, that is, after integration. Therefore, those two truths can exist together, and one must understand that level of frustration that contributed to these people, if they were manipulated, to do what they did.“

Moreover, she agreed with the assessment that the Serbs have no arguments for the demands they had until now.

„It is true. For more than 10 years, they used arguments, now we have entered a completely new phase. This is the stage where you no longer speak with arguments, but with violence. It is very clear, and a great price will be paid by the local community, and this is what we from the civil society have been warning against for a long time: that this must be prevented. Exactly this, to move from the phase in which arguments were used for a long time to a new phase where violence is used, but it was simply not done in time, and we are entering a completely new dynamic. And now the only question is whether the international community has enough instruments to suppress the violence that now seems to be brewing or not.“

„The dialogue went from a period of very difficult, but some kind of integration, to stagnation, to crisis management, to conflict management, and all because of an apparently reluctant diplomatic response,“ she explains.

Now we have definitively moved into a phase where arguments are no longer being used, but violence

When asked about the lack of transparency from Belgrade, as well as Srpska Lista, even after the Kosovo Minister of the Interior published videos allegedly showing vice-president of this party, Milan Radoičić, as the leader of an armed masked group, Andrić-Rakić stated that because of the nature of the regime in Belgrade, Serbia will never say anything specific about what happened.

They will hide behind the argument that they do not have full effective control over the north for the investigation, but on the other hand they will discredit the results of the investigation from Pristina, which is the same model that the Serbian authorities applied in the past, during the investigation into the murder of Oliver Ivanović.

„That’s what we;ll see now,“ concluded Andrić-Rakić.

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