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Context of 'January 1999: Three Police Killed by NLA near Macedonian Capital'

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A courthouse in Gostivar, Macedonia is attacked, and the National Liberation Army apparently says it is responsible, marking its first public appearance. Two more Macedonian courthouses will be attacked in January 1998. For years the Macedonian government and NATO will consider the NLA part of the KLA, and Macedonia will demand that the guerrillas go back to Kosova and that NATO secure the border. It will later be revealed that, while many in the NLA are veterans of the war in Kosova, most of its leaders and soldiers are from Macedonia. Macedonia believes the NLA wants to create a Greater Albania, including western Macedonia. (Kola 2003, pp. 376-378)

In the vicinity of Aracine, near the Macedonian capital, Skopje, National Liberation Army (NLA) guerrillas kill three Macedonian police. (Kola 2003, pp. 377)

After attacking a police station near Tetova and killing a police officer, the NLA releases a number of demands, including a constitutional amendment to declare that Macedonia is a state of both Macedonians and Albanians. Under the current constitution, Macedonia is a state of ethnic or Slavic Macedonians, and is inhabited by several minority groups, such as Albanians. The Albanian government believes 40 percent of the Macedonian population could be ethnically Albanian, while the 1981 Yugoslav census puts the figure at 19.7 percent. Macedonia’s 2002 census will say Albanians are 25.17 percent of the population. The NLA says “the uniform of the Macedonian occupiers will be targeted until the Albanian people is freed,” and also says, “We call upon the Macedonian police to go back to their families, and not waste their lives in the service of illusory Macedonian plans to dominate the Albanian majority.” (Kola 2003, pp. 298-299, 377; Phillips 2004, pp. 80)

The Macedonian government and Macedonian Albanian political leaders, along with EU envoy Francois Leotard and American envoy James Pardew, conduct talks for weeks in Ohrid and come to an agreement on August 8. The Framework Agreement is signed at a tense ceremony in Skopje on August 13. Under the agreement, Macedonia’s constitution will be changed to call it a state of “Macedonian citizens,” not the “Macedonian nation”; Albanian will become an official language where 20 percent or more of the people are speakers; limits are taken off national symbols and religion; and Albanians and other groups are given a veto over legislation about “culture, use of language, education, personal documentation, and use of symbols,” and can call for elected commissions to monitor human rights. The parties agree to reform the Macedonian police force to reflect Macedonia’s ethnic makeup by 2004 (only six percent of the force is Albanian at this time), the Law on Local Self-Government and Local Finance is amended to increase local autonomy, local boundaries are to be moved to reflect ethnic composition after an upcoming census, and the Laws on the Civil Service and Public Administration are changed so ethnic groups will have equal representation.
The Peace Deal between NATO and the NLA - NATO representative Pieter Feith and Ali Ahmeti, leader of the National Liberation Army, negotiate a separate peace settlement. On August 14 the NLA will say it supports the Framework Agreement and signs a technical agreement with NATO. NATO will disarm the NLA and the guerillas will receive amnesty. About 3,500 NATO soldiers will enter Macedonia, beginning on August 12 with the entry of British and French units.
Results of the Agreements - There are Macedonian and Albanian groups that oppose the Framework Agreement, including the Albanian National Army, a militant group about as old as the NLA, and the Real NLA. Some accuse NATO or the USA of being behind the NLA and ANA. Political changes will be made in Macedonia, but the Framework Agreement will not be implemented fully. By September 27, the NLA will dissolve. Six months of civil war kill 150 to 250 people (including 95 Macedonian police and soldiers), wound 650 or more, and displace 140,000 people. At its peak, the NLA controls about 20 percent of Macedonia. (Kola 2003, pp. 379-382; Phillips 2004, pp. 134-136, 161, 204)


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