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Ali Ahmeti – Kicevo

Ahmeti's Village

October 2002

In autumn 2002, ESI published a report on Macedonia financed by the Swiss government. The report described the political economy of ethnic tensions in Macedonia through a portrait of Kicevo region.

Zajas, "Ahmeti's village", is a rural municipality of some 10,000 inhabitants in the Kicevo region. It was the home of the guerrilla leader turned party politician, Ali Ahmeti, who led the uprising that brought the country to the brink of civil war in 2001. Although Kicevo had not seen ethnic violence in 2001, ESI found deep fractures in the political economy that were driving the two communities apart.

"The Macedonian state is largely absent from the daily lives of the people of Zajas and other rural Albanian areas. There is almost no official employment and little infrastructure. The local economy is fuelled entirely by remittances."

The situation was different, though not better, in urban Kicevo:

"Macedonian households have seen their living standards collapse over the past two decades. Local industry has long since stopped hiring, and the public administration is under pressure both to downsize and to make space for more minority representation. There is almost no new private sector in the ethnic Macedonian parts of Kicevo, with the exception of a few small construction firms, shops and cafés."

The result of this was a destabilizing paradox:

"Albanians are struggling to access a system of state-sponsored benefits which has all but disappeared. For their part, ethnic Macedonians feel under siege, both socially and economically, and experience Albanian demands as a direct threat to their position."

Ahmeti's Village was soon one of the most widely quoted ESI reports.

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