Albania: Italian Commander in Vlore: 'Nobody Can Impose Order'

by way of Carlos Moreno (
Sat, 24 May 1997 22:27:58 -0500


World News Review 23-5-97a ******************************************************** Albania: Italian Commander in Vlore: 'Nobody Can Impose Order'

Milan Corriere della Sera (Internet version) in Italian 21 May 97 Report by Massimo Nava

Vlore -- Even the right to burial has been abolished in Vlore. Covered by a fly-blown, bloodstained sheet, the corpse of Osmen Kovaci, 18, lay for hours in an excavated alleyway, like some dog run over by a speeding car. He is the latest victim. He was killed at 1000 hours with a burst of machine gun fire, and not even the undertaker will violate the undeclared curfew. The children around the dead man recount his execution as though they had been watching a television movie. His father and uncle pleaded with our troops, and then asked us to take him away: "The blood is dry; it will not stain your seats." But this is not the problem in the deserted streets, amid the frightening silence, broken from time to time by bursts of gunfire and explosions. A car with a Tirana license plate is enough to draw insults and to constitute a target. At last he was carried off. Wrapped in a carpet, with one arm hanging from the open trunk. After three months of anarchy, Vlore is like the Wild West, where not even hearses go. The Zani gang, which suffered an attack by heavy machine guns the other day, is holed up in the Ciole quarter and has organized check points, like a military force. The schools are closed, and people's blinds are drawn. In this "Tartars' desert" our soldiers mount guard against an invisible enemy, and one that cannot be attacked even when he does materialize. The tide of anarchy has prompted a kind of self- imposed siege, but nobody surrounds a city which can be entered only under escort and which it is dangerous to leave. Only the beach shows signs of life. Little children jump from the jetty, a few fishermen are returning to shore, and the illegal emigres' inflatable dinghies try out their engines. "Nobody can impose order. Officially, there is a police force, but none of the policemen are willing to go into the streets. We cannot intervene in the gang warfare. The same applies to contraband, the departure of illegal emigrees, and drug dealing," according to Girolamo Giglio, who commands the operations of the multinational force in southern Albania and who is answerable to General Forlani. Was this an admission of impotence? "Definitely not. We were assigned other tasks -- to defend the population and to ensure the distribution of aid -- and I think that we are performing them very well." Then he pointed to the map: "Even if we did receive different orders, with 1,000 men we could not disarm this extraordinary people's army and control such a large area." The alternative authority of the "salvation committees" -- an expression of the anger of the people who have been defrauded and of political expectations -- is now considering new tactics. "The parties squabble; we no longer believe anyone; it is better to blow up a few bridges and to govern ourselves," some say. This is the prelude to secession. A few bridges have already been blown up further south, in Gjirokaster province. The moderates are talking about independent candidates for a kind of "Southern League," if elections are ever held. The fact that the country is split is shown by the surreal election campaign begun, without agreed rules, by President Berisha, who yesterday held a rally in Fier, the last area south of Tirana still under his control. The president arrived with a procession of armored cars flying flags, accused the opposition forces of not wanting an agreement, and left again for the capital where "his" prime minister is issuing increasingly insistent appeals for international aid: "We want elections, but fundamental guarantees are at stake," Prime Minister Fino keeps saying. Overnight he made yet another mediation attempt. The trial of strength conducted on hot coals continues, and the South in turn accuses the government of boycotting an agreement. The committees accuse Berisha's secret police of organizing terrorism: "They have enrolled former convicts and paramilitary groups to carry out attacks. Nobody believes the stories about gang warfare." According to the inquiries, the attack the other day was organized by a group to avenge a kidnapping by Zani's men. But it is impossible to obtain confirmation, when the institutions are nonexistent, and to reconstruct a scenario of kidnappings, attacks, robberies, and homicides nurtured by this absence. Gang leader Zani claims the role of the city's defender: "I was offered a million dollars to kill the members of the committee," he told one Albanian daily. Opposition political sources argue that funds made available under the state of emergency have been used to enroll at least a thousand agents. Supposedly, 300 of them have been assigned to protect the president: One Tirana daily reported the details of a failed attempt in early March. Apart from the "disclosures" and steered reports, there are many signs of the fact that the Albanian crisis has entered a new phase of intersecting strategies, both within and perhaps outside the country. Having been duped and deprived of even short-lived prosperity, the South will never agree to be governed by the "state robbers," by the government clans which, clinging to power at all costs, hope to appropriate the international aid and finance business, too. There is only one solution -- either to step up efforts to establish peace, or to give up.

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