by Gyorgy Kakuk
This village is located in the steep hills of northern Kosovo, about 15 kilometers from Mitrovica and at the approximately equal distance from Zubin Potok. Administratively it belongs to the municipality of Zubin Potok. In the early morning of March 29, 1999, Yugoslav forces entered this village and informed the villagers that their time was up. In several hours all residents left Cabra and this formerly successful community of Kosovo Albanians was literally leveled to the ground. The Army brought heavy machinery and destroyed everything. Not even a single chicken coop was left behind.
Three years later, Cabra is again in the news, thanks to political will, money and friendly KFOR soldiers. The efforts of the local community to complete the reconstruction as soon as possible are impressive. Since the end of the conflict, out of 180 destroyed houses 170 houses have been reconstructed in the village. Even though this figure may seem impressive, the situation is not that simple.
Everything started when Cabra received $2.5 million for reconstruction of houses from the United Fund of Kosovo (UNFORK), headed at the time by the so-called former Prime Minister of Kosovo in exile, Bujar Bukoshi. The UN municipal administration in Zubin Potok approved the start of reconstruction. There was only one condition: houses had to be rebuilt at the same place they were before the war. However, the local community ignored this condition and illegally built another 20 houses in Cabra. This placed a dilemma in front of the municipal administration: should the illegally constructed houses be left alone or should they be demolished given the lack of housing in the village?
"The municipal administration did not have much choice," Kristin Boyl, former municipal administrator in Zubin Potok says. "We tried to help owners of illegally built houses to legalize their objects, but that was and still remains a very difficult task. At the same time we warned the local leaders in Cabra about such behavior. That was all".
The money for the additional 20 houses did not come directly from Bukoshi's fund. Residents of Cabra decided to circumvent the rules in order to be able to finance their illegal project. They decided not to build bathrooms in legally reconstructed houses. In other words, money saved on bathrooms was used to illegally build extra 20 houses. However, an even worse problem turned up. People who were supposed to return to the houses refused to move in until bathrooms were constructed in them!
Facing this dilemma, the local authorities of the Serb majority municipality agreed to pay $2,500 from its municipal budget for the construction of bathrooms for the most needy families in Cabra. However, the local administration in Zubin Potok and the villagers of Cabra could not agree who the most needy villagers were. Simply, all the villagers wanted a bathroom. After long negotiations, 20 families were finally selected and their bathrooms were paid for from the municipal budget.
Interestingly, the architect who was contracted by UNFORK produced plans only for the houses, ignoring water and sewage systems. He also failed to provide plans for the electrical installations. UNMiK municipal administrator again had to intervene, this time to find donors who were prepared to finance the started job. After she succeeded in that, she and the donors had to deal with yet another problem.
It turned out that the contractor of the Danish humanitarian organization DANIDA, selected to fix the water supply for the village, was a Bosniak. The local Albanians started to insult him. The insults culminated in threats to the contractor and his non-Albanian team and DANIDA had to pull out of the project. The project was taken over by OXFAM, which is now trying to fix the village water supply. One German organization is working on the electrical supply.
The story does not end here. During the unsettled phase, immediately after the conflict, UNHCR, with financial assistance from the Japanese government, supplied temporary shelter for people from Cabra. New homes with all facilities, including water and electricity, were assembled. But, mysteriously, after the completion of their houses, the ethnic Albanian villagers totally demolished the mobile homes. Only steel support columns remain. Everything else, doors, walls, water pipes, was totally destroyed. Why did that happen?
No one was able to tease an explanation out of the villagers. Several attempts to obtain an explanation failed. But, given the complex story behind the reconstruction, it seems that politics is responsible for everything.