Puka Assembly, for an Albania without weapons, for work and law.
One year ago I read the book The April Bride (in Dutch which is my mothers tongue) written by your world famous writer, Ismail Kadare. In this book, he describes the blood feud through the feelings of a young man, who at last has taken revenge, after a long time of thinking and hesitation and now he expects to be killed in a month. The tension and stress of this young man are described and transmitted in a wonderful way in this book, but it is difficult to be imagined by a foreigner or someone living outside Albania. But here in your area it is a daily reality. You are living and everyday with this historical practice born from Kanun. You have to apply the laws of your grandfathers and follow the rules that you know well. It must be almost unbearable for you and especially terrible to be experienced by mothers and women
This is how Johan Buwalda, former representative of UNDP (United Nations Development Program) in Weapons in Exchange of Development, with his speech addresses to the mountaineers and he has knocked on every door in the North of Albania.
The words of his letter found support in those men among the mountains and valleys, who are living for years under the stress of poverty, communication and blood feud difficulties. They continue not to abandon those lands though they are facing endless difficulties. Prepared and distributed by the Nationwide Reconciliation Committee in the villages and cities of of the North of Albania, this letter is addressed to each family, accompanied by a very sensitising appeal to hand over the weapons. In accordance with its strategy the Reconciliation Committee is helping the Program of the United Nations Organisation and the Government to close successfully the sensitising campaign to hand the weapons over within the 4th of August.
One year ago Mr. Buwalda worked with long hours in the UNDP offices. The number of the weapons in the hands of the Albanian population was incomparable. He followed with attention and concerns every piece of news about the murders. By the contacts in the field he observed that the key to the success was the insertion in the game of the NGO-s trusted by the people. As the media informed, on the 14th of June 2001, the Nationwide Reconciliation Committee would organise in Puka an assembly with representatives from all the villages of the North of Albania and some problematic areas in the South. According to the tradition of the collective responsibility the people sent to this conference its representatives to confirm the support to the committee and to the decisions of the meeting. The political parties, the religious faiths, the war veterans organisation, and that of the politically persecuted had signed the act of cooperation and support to the final declaration that would come out of this assembly. This defined leaving the responsibility of the murder on the killer so as to be prosecuted by the state, the reconciliation of the parties in conflict and the release of the confined families, public denouncing and isolation from the society of the violence robbers, the women, weapons and drugs traffickers and the voluntary handing over of the weapons. The women, weapons and drugs traffickers were considered the main causers of the conflicts and the tragic murders. The committee strategy had drawn the attention of many NGO-s in the field that asked to support it. Therefore it hurried, with modesty, humbleness and full of interest to be present in this assembly.
It is a great honour for the UNDP to be invited in a historic meeting like this, today. It is a great honour for me personally to represent a worldwide agency in this national initiative of the committee and to be also invited in this historic moment; in this historic place
We are here to help Albania enter in a new epoch after the different crises that your country has passed. Albania is one of the poorest countries not to say the poorest in Europe and Albania needs help in her development process. UNDP has an international experience to help in this process. One of the main preventing factors to realise this in Albania is the illegal existence of weapons. Thousands of weapons are distributed in all the country.
The presence of these weapons and ammunitions in the hands of the civil population is dangerous because people may be killed and it is a paralysing factor for the economic and social developments
The Government postponed the deadline to hand over the weapons until the 4th of August 2002. What we know is that your initiative is a very promising start to change the critical and very dangerous sutuation in these areas. In the use of a weapon three elements are involved, the weapon, the cartridge and the mind: The change of the latter has given incredible development nowadays. It is indeed an important moment and a big step in the development process. With the mind you may suppress every evil and achieve a lot. I have read that in these areas where your first constitution with the name Kanun has been compiled, hundreds of families have given their word to forgive the blood and apply the decision of this assembly. We hope a lot in the cooperation with you for the development of the North and all Albania so that we enter in a new epoch of investments and social security, Mr.Buwalda ends his letter being convinced that very soon we will have an Albania without weapons, stabilised, where the people work by their sweat and their creation applying the law in every step of the life. During this period, in many areas large quantities of weapons have been handed over by families in the villages in the presence of the UNDP representatives, the public order and the government. The representative of the Program for Disarmament, Mr. L.DOGZI since three moths stays very little in his office. He continues to follow the program and the projects in the field with a very high intensity. Very often he apologises that he is obliged to postpone the meetings which he considers necessary and he wants to be present himself. Since the families and the properties are threatened by the malefactors, many inhabitants of the rural areas require the weapons to be registered, but after the persuasive words of the representatives of the Committee that they will be equipped according to the law with registered weapons, they are ready to hand them over. The Committee has its representatives in each village, made up of the schoolmaster, head of the village and one mediator. They care about every problem that rises in the community. Their reports say that UNDP has invested very interesting projects in many villages, but there are also abuses with the funds, therefore a better monitoring of them is needed. Now that the population is becoming aware to denounce and isolate the criminal acts, the cooperation and collective responsibility for self defence and self arrangement of life in the community has been increased. Also the interest to keep weapons has fallen. A better understanding of the role of the civil society has been created. The acute question of blood feud in many areas has been eliminated and the people are clearer about the consequences of not respecting the law. The Committee strategy has ensured the release of hundreds of families without condition and the respect of the agreement between the reconciled parties. In six districts of the North of Albania, Puke, Mirdite, Diber, Kukes, Has and Malesi e Madhe this strategy has made it possible that these districts be declared districts with no blood feud. All the associations and missions now are going on based on this strategy. The fact that in Malesia e Madhe the people refused the referendum on Kanun and imposed the application of the Committee strategy according to the decision of the Puka assembly is an indication of the full support that this committee has among the people. Its representatives are showing a very high level in the teamwork in the rural areas. But there is need more than ever for the contribution of each of us, and the committee appeals on all the associations and institutions to support our long-term strategy, so that we together feel the satisfaction of change.