1997 Rebellion in Albania - Overview

Overview

By January 1997 the inevitable end came, and the people of Albania, who had lost $1.2 billion (out of a small population of three million), took their protest to the streets. Beginning in February, thousands of citizens launched daily protests demanding reimbursement by the government, which they believed was profiting from the schemes. On 1 March, Prime Minister Aleksandër Meksi resigned and on 2 March President Sali Berisha declared a state of emergency. On 11 March, the Socialist Party of Albania won a major victory when their leader Bashkim Fino was appointed prime minister. However, the transfer of power did not halt the unrest, as protests spread to northern Albania. Although the government quelled revolts in the north, the ability of the government and military to maintain order began to collapse, especially in the southern half of Albania, which fell under the control of rebels and Socialist forces.

All major population centers were engulfed in demonstrations by 13 March, and foreign countries began to evacuate their citizens from Albania. These evacuations included Operation Libelle and Operation Silver Wake.

The United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 1101, authorized a force of 7,000 on 28 March to direct relief efforts and to restore order to Albania. The UN feared the unrest would spread outside Albania's borders and contribute even more refugees to Europe. On 15 April, the 7,000 troops launched Operation Sunrise, an Italian-led mission which helped restore rule of law to the country.

After the unrest, over three million guns were transported to Kosovo and the guerrilla forces of Kosovo Liberation Army had received considerable armament.

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