22 Feb 13

Macedonian Patriotic Spines Bend Easily

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The appointment of a former ‘terrorist’ – i.e. former Albanian guerrilla - as defence minister tells us a lot about the patriotic credentials of the men in power.


The appointment of a former ethnic Albanian fighter as Macedonia’s new defence minister represents the peak of hypocrisy on the part of the self-proclaimed patriots in power.

After all those patriotic narratives from them, talking of not succumbing to “terrorists” – the term ethnic Macedonian officials used for the Albanian insurgents of the 2001 armed conflict - and to “ucki” - a more everyday derogatory term, will anyone openly admit now that it has all been just one big fat lie?

The ruling VMRO DPMNE certainly thinks that it can duck its responsibility to its own supporters for the appointment of Talat Xhaferi, formerly known as Commander Forina of the National Liberation Army, NLA.

“If anyone wishes to suggest that he made the Army bow to those who used to kill its members, he should know that the Army will never do that,” VMRO DPMNE said in a press release.

What a hypocrisy, coming from a party whose legislators just one day before in parliament voted almost unanimously for Xhaferi’s appointment – in effect forcing the army to daily salute a man who once deserted its ranks and pointed a gun against it.

Was this the same VMRO DPMNE that reacted so harshly this summer when Xhaferi’s predecessor, Fatmir Besimi, saluted a NLA war memorial in the village of Slupcane, accompanied by several men in army uniforms?

Poor Besimi fruitlessly tried to sell that as an act of post-conflict reconciliation, after being bombarded with criticism from his Macedonian coalition partners.

Later in the autumn we had the whole travesty of the alleged government crisis and VMRO DPMNE supposedly trying hard to pass an army law, supposedly to help army veterans, while the DUI – the party which emerged from the NLA’s ranks - supposedly did everything to block the bill, as it did not include any benefits for former NLA fighters.

Was not Xhaferi the man who used long speeches in parliament to prevent the adoption of the army law?  And didn’t VMRO DPMNE MPs say they detested his move, profiting well by confronting him about it.

Is Xhaferi going to be so bad for the country’s defence?  In all probability, no. An ex-army officer with a long military career, he should know his way around as defence minister.

From my personal experience of him, Xhaferi strikes me as a pleasant person, well spoken politician to say the least, which is not usually the case with men coming from military ranks.

But that is beside the point here.

His “sin” is that he defected army ranks during the conflict and fought against it. So, the real question is, does he have the moral right to lead an army that he fought against?

To put it another way: what next? Are we going to appoint Ljube Boskoski as head of the DUI?

There are no easy answers but there are some things you just don’t do, as they will simply rekindle a lot of people’s traumas from the conflict.

It is time for someone to gather courage and come clean, and admit that the work of post-war reconciliation has already been done, and that Macedonia’s ruling patriots, along with their Albanian counterparts, have no traumas left from 2001 whatsoever.

The trauma is for the weak, for the victims and the relatives of the dead and injured, for those who actually bought into the false patriotic narratives of either side and actually took up arms to fight for their ideals. Or they are the ones who simply had no other choice, or who later lost their jobs in the “booming economy” of conflict and post-conflict Macedonia.

It is certainly not for the winners. They get along just fine, selling their patriotic equivalent of fast food out loud while exchanging privileges and power under the table.

Talk about it!

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