Kosovo national James Berisha is on a mission to highlight the plight of his county, which gained independence on February 17, 2008, after years of ethic and civil wars. Berisha, a commercial pilot for Texas-based Sierra West Airlines, left Texas last May to raise awareness and promote international recognition of Kosovo's independence, which was mostly ignored by many countries. An ethic Albanian, his 47-year-old father was murdered during the conflict between the ethnic Serbs and Albanians ten years ago. Berisha said it was the death of his father that inspired him to fly his single-engine Learjet around the world to promote the international recognition of Kosovo's independence after decades of war that left the country scarred and beaten.
In an interview with the Balkan Insight, he elaborated on his mission saying: "I will thank those countries who have already recognised us, I will tell others how important it is for Kosovo to be recognised worldwide, and I will try to end racial stereotypes that belittle our people." Sitting down with the Guardian yesterday, Berisha said he had just completed his tour of 34 South and Central American countries. He said of those 34, only five fully recognised Kosovo's independence. Berisha said during his talks with those governments, he learned the main reason many nations in that part of the Western Hemisphere chose not to recognise Kosovo independence–because of their political and economic dealings with Russia.
He said during his visit to Paraguay, the president quietly told him that the government does recognise Kosovo's independence, but kept it quiet because of their economic ties with Russia to which 65 per cent of its meat is exported. Berisha said he had received a warm reception in each country and many had taken an interest in learning about the turbulent history of Kosovo and it's victory over the oppressive Russian and Serbian forces. He said from Trinidad, he would continue to visit each country in the Caribbean and end in Florida. Berisha said his mission was totally self- funded and if it wasn't for generous donations from the public, he said laughing, he would have probably "starved to death by now."
He leaves Trinidad today, after a three-day stay. He smiled and complimented the people of Trinidad for their warmth and attention.
Berisha said his next stretch would be the European and Asian continents.
For more information about James Berisha's mission visit his Web site flyingforkosovo.com.
Background on Kosovo
�2 In 1974 Kosovo was granted autonomy and the status of a federal unit within the Serbian republic.
�2 Through the 1980s, anti-Albanian sentiment ran rampant, fueling Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic's campaign on revoking the province's autonomy.
�2 By the late 1990s, Serbs and Montenegrans had dropped to 15 per cent of the Kosovo's population.
�2 In 1998, the Kosovo Liberation Army, formed by radical Kosovo Albanians, began fighting the Serbian security forces. By October 1998, the fighting left 300,000 rural Albanians homeless.
�2 In 1999, NATO lauched a bombing campaign over Kosovo, after Serbia continued its attacks against the Kosovo Albanians.
�2 In 2004, Albanian insecurity exploded into two days of Kosovo-wide mob attacks on Serb communities.
�2 After four years of exhausting peace- keeping efforts by NATO, EU and the UN, Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008.