In Episode 100 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses recent uprisings in two disparate parts of the world—the South Pacific archipelago nation of the Solomon Islands and two of the states that have emerged from the former Yugoslavia. In both cases, people who were pissed off for damn good reason took to the streets to oppose foreign capital, and corrupt authoritarian leaders who do its bidding. But in the Solomon Islands, popular rage was deflected into campism and ethnic scapegoating, while in Serbia and Kosova the people on the ground actually overcame entrenched and bitter ethnic divisions to make common cause against common oppressors. The contrast holds lessons for global protest movements from Hong Kong to New York City. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In what local media are calling an "environmental uprising," protesters blocked roads and occupied public squares in Belgrade and other towns across Serbia on Nov. 27 to oppose plans for a lithium mine at Loznica, on the Drina River. Anglo-Australian company Rio Tinto has been buying up land in the area, in anticipation of final approval of the project. But concerns over a toxic threat to local waters have sparked widespread outrage over the plan.
Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic on June 8 lost his appeal of a 2017 conviction for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) at The Hague upheld the life sentence for his role in the killing of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995. The Appeals Chamber also upheld his convictions for the persecution of Bosnian Muslims and Croats, terrorizing the population of Sarajevo with a campaign of shelling and sniping during the nearly four-year siege of the city, and taking UN peacekeepers hostage. The Chamber also reaffirmed his acquittal on charges of carrying out genocide in five other Bosnian municipalities in 1992—a disappointment for surviving residents of Prijedor, Sanski Most, Kotor Varos, Foca and Vlasenica. (BBC News, Balkan Insight, Balkan Insight)
President Hashim Thaci resigned Nov. 5 and traveled to The Hague to turn himself in after the Kosovo Specialist Chambers formally confirmed his indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 1990s armed conflict against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) for Kosovo’s independence. Thaci was indicted on crimes of persecution, imprisonment, illegal or arbitrary arrest and detention, other inhumane acts, cruel treatment, torture, murder, and enforced disappearance of persons, that the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is said to have committed against opponents. Opponents included persons who were or were perceived to have been collaborating with FRY authorities, and persons of Serb, Roma, and other ethnicities. Thaci held a leadership position with the KLA.
As nations across the globe remain under lockdown, more sweeping powers are being assumed by governments in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Facing demands for relief from poor barrios running out of resources under his lockdown orders, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to shoot protesters in the streets. Particularly naming the popular organization Kadamay as planning protests, Duterte said April 1: "Remember, you leftists: You are not the government. Do not go around causing trouble and riots because I will order you detained until this COVID [outbreak ends]. I will not hesitate. My orders are to the police and military...that if there is trouble... shoot them dead. Do you understand? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I'll send you to the grave." (Rappler)
Moscow has certainly been a flurry of diplomatic activity in recent days. Jan. 13 saw the first direct meeting in years between the intelligence chiefs of Turkey and Syria's Assad regime, supposedly deadly rivals. The head of Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MIT) Hakan Fidan met with Ali Mamlouk, head of the Syrian National Security Bureau, in a sure sign of a Russian-brokered rapprochement between the burgeoning dictatorship of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the entrenched dictatorship of Bashar Assad. Sources said discussions included "the possibility of working together against YPG, the terrorist organization PKK's Syrian component, in the East of the Euphrates river." (Daily Sabah, Reuters)
The prime minister of Kosovo, Ramush Haradinaj, resigned on July 19 after being called in for questioning by a war crimes court in The Hauge. The court is investigating ex-members of the Kosovo Liberation Army for their actions during the war from 1998-9 that led to Kosovo's independence from Serbia. Haradinaj was a guerrilla commander in that war. Haradinaj stated, "The honor of the Prime Minister and the State must be preserved, and I will never stain it. In the Hague I will go as Ramush Haradinaj and will face the defamation, as required by the honor of the Albanian fighter."
The Parliament of Kosovo approved a package of bills on Dec. 14 that will allow Kosovo to form a military and defense ministry. All three bills—one establishing a Defense Ministry, one that converts the limited Kosovo Security Forces (KSF) into a professional army, and another that regulates service in the forces—garnered convincing majority votes in Kosovo’s 120-seat legislature, with 101, 98 and 96 yes-votes respectively. Notably absent for the vote, however, were the Parliament's ethnic Serb MPs.