bosnia report
No. 15 April - June 1996
 
Mostar - Chronology

1990
18 November: at the first multiparty elections, Croatian Democratic Community of Bosnia-Herzegovina (HDZBiH) wins majority in the municipal vote and appoints Milivoje Gagro as mayor. It rules in a tacit coalition with the Party of Democratic Action (SDA).

1991
19 September: 'reservists', mainly from Montenegro and eastern Herzegovina, arrive in the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) barracks and terrorize the population.

2-6 October: JNA and Chetniks, in the context of their assault on Dubrovnik, destroy the Croat village of Ravno. This act marks the beginning of the Serbian aggression against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

18 November: 'Croat Community of Herzeg-Bosna' (HZHB) is founded in Grude, as a 'political, cultural, economic and territorial union' of Bosnia-Herzegovina Croats, with Mostar as its centre. Mate Boban elected president.

1992
9 February: at a meeting of the HDZBiH in Livno, chaired by one of its vice-presidents Mate Boban (the president Stjepan Kljuic had resigned), the referendum question on independence adopted by the Bosnia-Herzegovina Assembly is amended to include a reference to Croat, Muslim and Serb 'national areas (cantons)'.

29 February-1 March: 63.9% of registered voters in Bosnia-Herzegovina participate in the referendum, of whom 99.4% vote in favour of independence.

3 April: Mostar shelled for the first time. By the end of May JNA and Chetniks reach River Neretva, destroying or badlÌÌÌÌÌÌÌ̼y damaging the Franciscan monastery; the Catholic cathedral; the bishop's palace, with its library containing 50,000 books, Karadzoz-bey, Roznamed-ij-Ibrahim-efendija and twelve other mosques. They also destroy five bridges and damage the Old Bridge. Part of the Serb population leaves, part joins the aggressors, part remains in the city.

8 April: 'Croat National Defence' (HVO) is formed as 'the only institutional form of defence' of the Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina. A significant number of Bosniaks join it. Bosniak 'Patriotic League' and 'Green Berets' are also active. So is the Croatian Party of Right's 'Croat Defence League' (HOS), mixed in composition. They are aided with arms, material, and manpower from Croatia. Some of them train in Croatia, including about thirty 'Green Berets' from Mostar.

6 May: Mate Boban and Radovan Karadzic publish a joint statement recalling 'the principles adopted at the European Community meeting on Bosnia-Herzegovina'. Noting that HDZ demands the whole of Mostar for the 'Croat national unit', while SDS demands division along the River Neretva, they ask for 'arbitration on the line of separation'. Evident consternation and growing suspicion among the Bosniaks.

12 June: HVO begins counter-offensive and, together with the other defenders, manages by the end of the month to throw the JNA and Chetniks back from the city. In honour of the victory two young men leap from the Old Bridge, one carrying a Croat and the other a Bosnia-Herzegovina flag. Soon after, HDZ issues edict dismissing eight Bosniak managers and replacing them with Croats. On edge of town HVO members murder HOS commander Blazo Kraljevic, one of the most stubborn proponents of a Croat-Bosniak defence alliance.

14 November: at the second general assembly of HDZBiH a completely new party leadership is elected. Mate Boban, by becoming president, fuses the party, military (HVO) and government (HZHB) functions.

December: the 4th Corps of the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina (ABH) is formed, which unites the hitherto independent Bosniak formations as well as the Bosniaks who were earlier in HVO, embittered by the increasing contempt shown towards them by the HDZ and its ignoring of the legal government in Sarajevo.

18 December: HVO dissolves the legal municipal assemblies and dismisses 'unsuitable' mayors, taking control in this way throughout the territory under its control. HVO and ABH are by now each practically nationally homogenous and increasingly in political confrontation.

1993
After several weeks of tension and incidents, HVO - aided by the Croatian Army - begins, in the early hours of 9 May, a general offensive against the east part of Mostar which is under ABH control. The Bosniaks in the part of the city under HVO control are either expelled to the other side of the Neretva or sent to the Helidrom and other camps, where they suffer torture and murder. Superior in heavy weapons, HVO systematically destroys the east part of the city and the old city centre (Kujundziluk). ABH, however, manages to hold onto most of its positions.

28 August: in Grude HZHB is proclaimed a 'republic', ie. a 'state' of Croats in Bosnia/Herzegovina with Mostar as its capital.

9 November: HVO guns destroy the Old Bridge. In the part of the city under ABH control, a day of mourning is proclaimed.

1994
8 February: Mate Boban resigns at a meeting of the central committee of HDZBiH held in Livno.

25 February: ceasefire in Mostar and on other fronts between HVO and ABH.

18 March: Croat and Bosniak representatives sign in Washington an agreement forming the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The city, however, remains divided practically in half along the established frontline.

23 July: European Union establishes office in Mostar. At its formal inauguration, EU governor Hans Koschnik and the German foreign minister cross the River Neretva, in the company of presidents Izetbegovic and TudjmÌÌÌÌÌÌÌ̼an, over a temporary bridge erected in place of the Old Bridge.

Nov 1995 - Feb 1996
With the agreements in Dayton and Rome, an administrative division of Mostar is established. The city is divided into six nationally defined municipalities (three Bosniak and three Croat) and a multiethnic 'central district'. Elections for a common city government are announced for May 1996 (postponed to 30 June). Restricted movement between the two parts of the city is re-established.

A longer version of this Chronology was published in Erasmus No. 16, Zagreb, April 1996.

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