bosnia report
No. 15 April - June 1996
Partition and Perish

In the six months since the signing of the Dayton Accords, little has been achieved towards the implementation of their non-military provisions. For this IFOR bears the main responsibility.

In Sarajevo, it stood idly by while the city's suburbs were being torched and looted. It presided over the departure of tens of thousands of Bosnia Serbs, who, in addition to swelling the ranks of the country's dispossessed, have been used to create new problems in eastern Bosnia and the contested town of Brcko, where they have been sent to block the return of the original inhabitants. In Mostar, it watched with indifference as HDZ thugs attacked Hans Koschnik for proposing a plan for reintegration of the partitioned city. Most astonishing of all, given that in order to reach Banja Luka from Pale they have to cross the IFOR-controlled zone o separation at least twice, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic remain at large.

Ever since its arrival IFOR has repeatedly failed to use its powers under the Accords to safeguard freedom of movement, to 'respond appropriately to deliberate violence to life and person', or generally to help the international bodies (OSCE, UNHCR, ICRC etc) implement the tasks the Accords prescribe. The most crucial of these is the return of Bosnia's displaced population, in compliance with the provision that : 'All refugees and displaced persons have the right freely to return to their homes of origin.' IFOR has instead tolerateÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌèd concentrated and sometimes fatal attacks on people wishing to return, and has even joined forces on the ground with those in the Republika Srpska and elsewhere who are bent on maintaining ethnic purity in the territories under their control. To quote The Washington Post 'NATO's timidity has gone from the inexplicable to the repellent.'

The root of the problem is the Clinton Administration's seeming assumption that the reintegration of Bosnia can be achieved only by first enforcing its partition 60,000 NATO soldiers have been sent to keep Bosnia divided. They will hardly be challenged. Sitting on bayonets, however, is an uncomfortable business. Prolonged beyond a certain point, it will precipitate a situation in which IFOR, avowedly sent to establish 'enduring peace and stability'. will instead find itself in the role of an aggressor.

The events of the past six months have made it crystal clear that peace (as opposed to a ceasefire) based on division is likely to remain elusive. The two entities - the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Republika Srpska - are, in fact, inherently unstable and could not survive an enduring peace. Stable peace demands Bosnia's unification. This would involve, as a minimum, repatriation of the two million refugees and displaced people, the arrest of indicted war criminals, the organization of free, fair and democratic elections, and substantial economic aid - all envisaged under Dayton. The instrument for realizing this minimum, however, are lacking and their absence could not but increase IFOR's responsibilities. Since the central government has been left without the means to establish internal security and an effective rule o law throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina, and since the police forces and legal bodies of the two entities have failed (how could it be otherwise?) to perform this task, it inevitably falls to IFOR. Also, as IFOR, begins to prepare for departure, the problem of how to secure the country's integrity in the absence of a common army - and against the will of Serbia and Croatia, which now controls its borders - will return with a vengeance. At Dayton, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia agreed to 'refrain from any action, by threat or use of force or otherwise, against the territorial integrity and political independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina.' But this commitment has remained a dead letter, and the underlying problem will not be solved simply by an 'arm and train' policy aimed at strengthening the ?Federation's armed forces.

In the meantime, much will depend on IFOR's ability to create conditions for (in Dayton terms), free, fair and democratic elections throughout the country. Without freedom of movement, association and expression - none of which as yet exist - the elections will be a farce. On this issue too, there is a ready will to defer to the partitionists. The Rules and Regulations of the Provisional Election Commission, issued by the OSCE office in Sarajevo at the end of April, have been rightly criticized by the political parties active on Bosnia's free territory for being designed to do what the aggression failed to achieve: legitimize Bosnia's ethnic partition. In the case of Mostar, the electoral rules introduced by the EU commissioner effectively disenfranchised 75% of pre-war citizens: they were modified only after a categorical Bosnian refusal to accept them. Beyond Bosnia's borders, there are hundreds of thousands of voters awaiting registration.

The fact is that, in leaving the survival of the Bosnian state an open issue, the Dayton Accords have preordained that the battle between the forces of re-integration and those seeking final separation will continue, albeit by other means.


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