However, after the passage of time, the Macedonian government began engaging in corrupt practices. Reports indicated that this government was linked to high profile Albanian criminals who engaged in smuggling as their specialty. Consequently, this government allowed illegal activities to go on without taking any action against the perpetrators. On top of that, the government was not able to make reforms yet these were needed urgently in the economic and social sectors. As a result, the latter government was eliminated in the 1998 national election. At that point, a coalition government got into power. This was the government that would then be responsible for the 2001 Macedonian conflict.
The 2001 conflict occurred as result of mounting tension between the ethnic Albanian minorities and the other Macedonian ethnic groups. These tensions began as early as when the first government took power. At that time, the Albanians felt that they were not well represented in the parliament, armed forces and in the civil service. Consequently, they demanded for their rights. As if that was not enough, economic pressures took a toll on the inter-ethnic tensions. Smugglers from both sides' i.e. Albanian and Macedonian majorities were going about their activities and drugging the economy of the land.
The situation was further aggravated by the fact that a neighbouring country; Kosovo was undergoing its own civil conflicts. Kosovo's civil conflict was between the Albanians and the Serbs. The overall result of this conflict was the creation of a quarter of a million Albanian refugees who found their way into Macedonia. Furthermore, the Kosovo Liberation Army set up base in Macedonia where they would send supplies into Yugoslavia. The overall outcome of this upon the local Albanian was the formation of militias. The latter had ammunition that would enable them to protect themselves against any potential attacks from the local ethnic Macedonian authorities. All these issues led to increased availability of weapons within Macedonia. (The BBC, 2001, news.bbc.co.uk)
Weapons were also highly available owing to the fact that the prior government allowed gun smugglers into the country. Even actual government officials were responsible for that too. Some affected parties from Kosovo decided to use the Macedonian border as their storage area. On top of that, the smugglers were bribing government official in order for them to stay quite about what they saw. Due to increased corruption in the government, any individuals who voiced their complaints about this illegal trade were eliminated automatically. This availability of weapons and the mounting tensions between the two groups created a highly volatile situation. All that was needed was a small reason and a civil war would begin. (Wood, 2001b, p 12)
A group known as the NLA (National Liberation Army) was largely responsible for these attacks. This was brought about by the fact they spread a lot of propaganda against the government of Macedonia. Besides that, the group was also responsible for lodging attacks against the police and the army. Their attacks were also spread out to public facilities that included railway lines and others. (Jovanovska, 2002, p 310)
The main and direct participants in the conflict
In early 2001, the ethnic minorities began taking over some villages in the areas near the Macedonian bo