Kosovo Albanians welcome Clinton, Albright 20 years after NATO intervention

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Former US President Bill Clinton applauds during the inauguration of the monument of Madeleine Albright at the 20th anniversary of the Deployment of NATO Troops in Kosovo, in Pristina. (Reuters)
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Former US President Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci, walk during the 20th anniversary of the Deployment of NATO Troops in Kosovo, in Pristina. (Reuters)
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Former US President Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci, walk during the 20th anniversary of the Deployment of NATO Troops in Kosovo, in Pristina. (Reuters)
Updated 12 June 2019

Kosovo Albanians welcome Clinton, Albright 20 years after NATO intervention

  • Clinton, 72, and Albright, 82, were greeted like rock stars in the Kosovo capital Pristina where a statue of Albright was unveiled in the city center for the occasion
  • Majority-Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after NATO air strikes ended Belgrade’s repressive grip on the territory

PRISTINA: Thousands of Kosovo Albanians turned out on Wednesday to welcome back former US president Bill Clinton and his ex-top diplomat Madeleine Albright 20 years after they helped engineer the NATO air war that ousted Serbian forces.
Clinton, 72, and Albright, 82, were greeted like rock stars in the Kosovo capital Pristina where a statue of Albright was unveiled in the city center for the occasion, joining one of Clinton erected earlier on a boulevard named after him.
Majority-Albanian Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nine years after NATO air strikes ended Belgrade’s repressive grip on the territory following a brutal counter-insurgency campaign by Serbian security forces.
“I love this country and it will always be one of the greatest honors of my life to have stood with you against ethnic cleansing (by Serbian forces) and for freedom,” Clinton told thousands gathered in sweltering heat in downtown Pristina.
Marking the 20th anniversary of NATO peacekeeping troops entering Kosovo after Serbian forces left, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci awarded Clinton and Albright medals of freedom “for the liberty he brought to us and the peace to entire region.”
Clinton and Albright were the most outspoken proponents of NATO intervention to halt killings of Kosovar civilians by Serbian forces as part of Belgrade’s 1998-99 crackdown on a Kosovo Albanian guerrilla uprising.
“I was watching the NATO planes from the window of my apartment in Pristina during the war and I was praying to God and the USA; I had no other hope,” said Gani Kelmendi, 78, as he waited in the crowd for Clinton to appear.
“I remember the moment when in my village the Serb army was getting out and French soldiers were coming in. I could not believe my eyes,” said Fetah Berisha, 67, who considers Clinton Kosovo’s “savior.”
But the end of fighting brought about by NATO’s intervention has not brought true peace to the southern Balkan region.
Belgrade has still not recognized independent Kosovo more than a decade after more than 110 other countries did and, backed by its main ally Russia, is blocking Pristina’s bid for membership of the United Nations.
Tensions rose anew six months ago when Kosovo introduced a 100 percent tax on goods imported from Serbia and warned it would keep them until Belgrade recognized its independence.
The European Union has warned Kosovo and Serbia that they will not advance toward wished-for membership unless they reach an agreement to normalize relations.


India’s coronavirus lockdown exposes millions to hunger, homelessness

Hordes of migrant workers scrambling for transport to their villages at Anand Vihar bus station in New Delhi. Many, unable to get seats, walk on foot. (AN photo)
Updated 25 min 35 sec ago

India’s coronavirus lockdown exposes millions to hunger, homelessness

  • According to media reports, at least 22 workers have already died while trying to make their way back home

PATNA: Kavita and her two-year-old son are walking along a national highway from the suburbs of New Delhi to their home in Kannauj in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, some 450 km away.
 She is not alone. Thousands of other migrant laborers have also embarked on long journeys to return to their hometowns across India.
“Our sustenance was dependent on the daily wages me and my husband were earning. Once the factory shut down after the announcement of the lockdown, there was no other option but to head home,” said the 30-year-old who was employed at a shoe manufacture in Noida, on the outskirts of the capital.
The unprecedented migration follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which came into effect on March 25, rendering many daily-wage workers jobless and homeless as businesses shut down.
“The government announced the lockdown suddenly and did not plan how poor people like us would survive such an extreme measure without any support,” Kavita told Arab News.
Most of them have no other option but to travel on foot. While some buses are still operating, very few are lucky to get a seat. The railways have been suspended until at least April 14.
Ranveer Singh, who was walking home from Delhi to Morena in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, died of exhaustion on Friday, 100 km from his destination.
The 38-year-old father of three worked as a delivery boy in Delhi and he was left on his own when the lockdown started.
“My father was desperate to return. Circumstances were such that he could not stay in Delhi,” Singh’s 13-year-old daughter Pinky told Arab News.
According to media reports, at least 22 workers have already died while trying to make their way back home.
“The Modi regime is responsible and culpable for this. This is not incompetence, this is criminal neglect,” Delhi-based lawyer and activist, Vrinda Grover, said.
According to government data, at least 40 million people have been working away from their hometowns in different places across India. Most of them come from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Situation of migrant laborers is ‘under control,’ says Home Ministry.

• 40 million people have been working away from their hometowns in different places across India.

To stop the current exodus, the central government on Sunday asked state administrations to seal their borders and provide food and shelter to make migrant workers stay where they are. Those who return to their homes should be quarantined for 14 days.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi justified the tough decision and apologized for “the hardship faced by people.”
“But looking at the world, this looks like the only option,” he said on Sunday.
According to Dr. Arvind Kumar, of Delhi-based Sir Gangaram Hospital, the lockdown is “an emergency measure and it should be followed strictly. Mixing of the population raises the fear of the escalation of virus.”
But how the measures have been introduced has attracted criticism.
“The way things have been managed, with thousands of migrant workers allowed to migrate to their areas, defeats the whole purpose of the lockdown,” social activist, Harsh Mander, told Arab News.
Meanwhile, Home Affairs Ministry Joint Secretary Punya Salila Srivastava told reporters on Monday that the situation of migrant laborers was “under control.”
“We are working on providing all the facilities to the workers at a war-footing level,” she said.
Many argue, however, that neither control nor clear policy have been in place.  
According to Prof. Apoorvanand, of the University of Delhi, the government’s planning and the prime minister’s recent speeches are “aimed at assuaging the sentiments of the middle class.”
“It demonstrates the policy mindset and the conscience of the government, which does not count the marginalized sections of the society even at the time of national crisis,” he said.
“This also shows sheer incompetence and lack of foresight and policy on the part of the government before announcing the lockdown.”