Article by Ivana Jordanovska, Activist from Kumanovo

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On the evening of May 8th, the police forces of Macedonia entered Divo Naselje, a part of the northern city of Kumanovo. According to official sources, the police had information on a terrorist group hiding in some of the houses in this ethnically-mixed part of town, planning to attack state institutions. Throughout the night and following day, grenades and gunshots were being heard, several objects were burning and civilians were being evacuated throughout the day.

As I drove into the city from the airport, there was one thought I couldn’t get rid of: Who would benefit from this crisis? To the best of my knowledge of local politics and international relations, this crisis, and especially the narrative being spread, made no sense. Having lived in the city for more than 19 years now, it made even less sense. The terrorists couldn’t have expected to gain support from the local Albanians. So, who?

“It’s almost nothing like 2001.” – said a friend who happens to be a former member of the military reserve forces taking part in the conflict. We all remember 2001 quite vividly. There was more than just gunpowder in the air. There was fear of the “other”, an open disgust of those speaking a different language and mistrust among most of the citizens. More and more Albanians were moving into the city, buying up land mostly in the southern outskirts of town, what is known as Divo Naselje.

Any self-respecting admirer of Agatha Christie knows the first rule in investigating a crime: Find the motive. To jump to the conclusion that it is an ethnic conflict is a gross misunderstanding of the political situation in the country, patronizing and simply dumb. However, there is one group that has a clear benefit from the developments of this crisis.

The Interior Ministry claims the group was planning an attack on state institutions. If a foreign terrorist group infiltrated the country and engaged in combat, the Government would have to declare a state of emergency. A state of emergency allows for special measures, such as introducing a curfew or revoking the right to protest. And, what’s been happening in Macedonia lately? Protests.

Since couple of months ago, the ruling party VMRO-DPMNE has been under a constant public pressure after the oppositional SDUM started publishing conversations illegally-recorded  by the secret police proving major frauds and misuses of power by leading political figures of VMRO-DPMNE. Parallel to this, the overall dissatisfaction has been manifesting itself through several series of protests on various issues. There have been protests against a controversial law on higher education, the new tax law, the secondary school reform, the unfair imprisonment of the journalist Kezarovski and as a form of public outrage for the death of young Tamara whose life-saving surgery was postponed by bureaucracy. Some of these groups of protesters have supported some of the other causes, but no issue has been as inflammatory as the recorded conversations between high government officials on the murder of Martin Neshkoski.

Martin was a 21-year old VMRO-DPMNE supporter who was beaten to death by a policeman, at the victory rally of his own party for the elections in 2011. Once his death was made public, thousands of young people took to the streets to protest against police brutality and demand the resignation of the Minister of Interior, Gordana Jankuloska. The Ministry claimed the policeman was off duty, so there was to be no political responsibility and Jankulovska is still a Minister. However, the published conversations show that Jankulovska hid the fact the policeman followed an verbal order by a person who’s not his supervisor, thus proving that the chain of command in the police is completely rigged in favor of powerful individuals.

Since May 5th, there have been massive protests every day, in front of institutions in the capital. The different groups have merged into a movement against the government. The police limits the movement of the protesters each following day, who are responding to the changing dynamics by becoming more and more organized. From day 1, provocateurs were identified and measures were taken, by the protesters, to keep the protests peaceful. However, the police has shown very little restraint and attempt to keep the protests peaceful. The culmination of the protests is scheduled for May 17th, when the united opposition is organizing a rally.

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And one might think this is just another conspiracy theory. What kind of a government would be prepared to induce violence to stay in power? The kind that has too much to lose. The misuse of power by the Prime Minister and his closest allies is sickening and omnipresent. They have rigged elections, taken bribes, wire-tapped more than 20.000 citizens, blackmailed businesses, created media content, imprisoned political opponents, exercised control over the judiciary and misused their power for their personal financial benefit. The day they give up power is the day they are liable for hundreds of lawsuits. And without the support of the current public prosecutor, nothing stands

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