četvrtak, 8. prosinca 2011.

On TransConflict

Both Gordon N. Bardos and Matthew T. Parish contribute articles for TransConflict though the latter does it more frequently than the former. What is in fact TransConflict? It is said on their website that “TransConflict was established in response to the challenges facing intra- and interethnic relations in the Western Balkans following Kosovo's declaration of independence. It is TransConflict's assertion that the successful transformation of conflict requires a multi-dimensional approach that engages with and aims at transforming the very interests, relationships, discourses and structures that underpin and fuel outbreaks of low- and high-intensity violence.“ Among others sitting on TransConflict's Advisory Board is a native of Gorazde, Savo Heleta.

Few words about the man. In his own words: „My name is Savo Heleta. I am the author of “Not My Turn to Die: Memoirs of a Broken Childhood in Bosnia”. I hold a Masters Degree in Conflict Transformation and Management at Nelson Mandella Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I am currently enrolled in a PhD program in Post-Conflict Development and Reconstruction at Nelson Mandella Metropolitan University.” In the words of Marko Attila Hoare who reviewed Heleta's book in his article entitled “The Persecution of Serb Civilians in wartime Gorazde”: “[speaking of Savo Hoare writes] ... he confesses that his anger at his family's wartime treatment drove him, among other things, to throw rocks at Bosniak cars that drove between Gorazde and Sarajevo after the war, sometimes smashing windscreens and windows: [quoting Savo] 'It hardly crossed my mind at the time that perhaps those people in the buses and trucks had not done anything bad to my family. Some of them could even have been those who had helped us. Maybe even the man who gave us his last loaf of bread. I was completely blinded by fury.'” And finally, in the words of Chunyan Song from California State University who assigned Heleta's memoir to her sociology students: “My students are inspired by Heleta's personal transformation from an angry teenager seeking revenge to a bright scholar actively seeking resolution to global conflicts.” As a side note, on the occasion when Savo addressed professor Song's students from his home in South Africa, students were so inspired by the author's personal transformation and devotion to world peace that they collected funds to purchase him a new laptop with a built-in camera after learning he borrowed one for their lecture. Good for Savo!

Having learnt a thing or two about the man's background and most importantly about his personal transformation from an angry teenager to a bright scholar, active seeker of resolution to global conflicts and devotee to world peace, all in one, let us now have a look at how Mr Heleta “engages with and aims at transforming... discourses... that underpin low- and high-intensity violence”, particularly with respect to the chief challenge in response to which TransConflict was established, as they themselves admit, that of Kosovo's declaration of independence.

Shortly after Kosovo declared independence, more precisely on 13 March 2008, Savo wrote an article entitled “Future Consequences of Kosovo's Independence” in which he argues that “[i]n the near future, we may see escalation of conflict in the Basque region of Spain and parts of France, fighting for independent Kurdistan in Iraq and Turkey, problems in Romania, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, China, the whole African continent and elsewhere.” On a more micro scale, “[i]t is very possible that some ethnic groups in Bosnia could decide to follow Kosovo’s path and seek partition of the country.” Besides the fact that this is hardly a talk of a peacemonger and that none of this actually happened in any of the mentioned places (including “elsewhere”) in the last three and a half years since the writing of the article or is likely to happen in the foreseeable future, I thought that the discipline of conflict transformation and management was all about preventing and containing conflicts, and not encouraging them.

In another article published on 4 April 2008 entitled “Some People (Europeans) Matter More Than Others (Africans)”, Savo Heleta, a student at Nelson Mandella Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa ostensibly tries to follow the anti-apartheid trail of the great man after whom his university was named, but strays along the way. Savo writes: “In 1999, Western countries claimed that up to 10,000 Albanians were killed in Kosovo by the Serbian security forces and that the world had to intervene immediately. They quickly decided to launch air strikes, using over 1,000 airplanes in their bombing campaign. After the short war, 2,100 people were confirmed to be killed in Kosovo by the Serbian forces before the air strikes, while another 2,000 were still missing. Back in 1994, 1 million dead Rwandans in only three months were not enough to influence Western countries to intervene.” Now, the problem with this argument, apart from being too simplistic and with statistics not being a favorite tool of any peacemonger, is that the author seems to object to the fact that Western countries did intervene in Kosovo, not that they did not intervene in Rwanda. In other words, non-intervention in Rwanda seems to have been used here only in support of an argument that Western countries should not have intervened in Kosovo either. Talking about some people (Serbs) mattering more than others (Albanians)! Furthermore, Savo resents the fact that “[i]t was easy to find 1,000 fighter jets to punish Serbia for killing a few thousand [non-mattering] people in Kosovo, but it is impossible to find 24 helicopters to start protecting people in Darfur.” The same pattern again. This sentence, as it is written, means that the failure to protect people in Darfur is wrong only because 1,000 fighter jets were found and used in what Savo believes was the wrongful act of punishment of Serbia. Finally, he concludes that “[i]t is an ugly world we live in.” To use the words of the great man Nelson Mandella himself: “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” And just to be clear, I do not think that Savo the transformed bright scholar has any real reason for resentment here. To sum up, Mr Heleta’s concern about the plight of Rwandans and people of Darfur seems to be quite opportunistic and used in support of making the case for Serbia, as shown above.

His subsequent writings are, among other things, about Hillary Clinton too, who in his view is “a phony pathological liar having no shame” and are generally too predictable to be even remotely interesting. Finally, going back to his Amazon profile, Savo writes: “Since letting go of the need for revenge, I have found common bonds with people from all over the world – India, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ireland, Trinidad, South Africa and, of course, America. The education and my new friends opened my mind to different perspectives, helping me grow, and persuading me to write about my wartime experience.” Any Bosnians or Albanians impressed by the “transformed discourse” among these “new friends”, huh?           

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