This Week: U.S. aid to Bosnia; Battle near Doboj; “democracy” in Croatia; war criminals arrested
Battle Near Doboj
Up to 300 Muslims, avoiding an IFOR check-point, crossed into the Republika Srpska at the village of Sjenina on April 28. The Muslims were then confronted by Serb civilians. (Sjenina is populated by Serbian refugees from central Bosnia.) The scuffle gave way to shooting. As the Muslims fled, some ran into a minefield. Two Muslims were killed; 10 were wounded.Other Serbs across the country found similar unwanted guests on the way, as multitudes of Muslims tried to visit their former homes and the graves of their relatives on Bijram, one of Islam’s main religious holidays: Outside Trnovo, 20 miles south of Muslim-held Sarajevo, Serbs ignored the NATO tanks escorting a Muslim convoy, attacking the buses and their occupants with clubs and bricks.
“I was finally going to be through with their war, their oppression and their crafty lies,” one Serb grimaced. “We had our republic and they had their side, and things were finally going to be peaceful … We’re not going over to their side, so they shouldn’t come over here. I don’t care what the Dayton agreement says. It’s just a piece of paper. The border is real.”
IFOR commanders are baffled about how to respond to resistance from Serb civilians. When IFOR has attempted to escort convoys into Serb areas, its soldiers have been stoned or blocked. Despite being tasked with implementation of the Dayton Accord, IFOR has thus taken to using its muscle to prevent returns. As today’s incident proves, blocking the pilgrimages is equally fruitless, as returnees now routinely evade checkpoints. And depending on the Serb police to protect the Muslims is equally ill-advised.
“If we could have lived together, we would have,” said one man. “We couldn’t, and that’s why we had a war.”
29 Apr 96, Mon
Yugoslavia and Macedonia re-established air service. The two countries agreed that the restoration of transport and communications is their number one priority after they re-established relations on April 8. Yugoslavia was Macedonia’s largest trading partner prior to the war. The blockade against Yugoslavia had seriously dislocated the Macedonian economy.
30 Apr 96, Tue
Croatia renamed the formerly Serb town of Vrginmost to a more Croatian sounding “Gvozd”. Serbs fled the Krajina town during last summer’s Croatian blitzkrieg.
1 May 96, Wed
The Carinski Most bridge reopened in Mostar. It is the first permanent concrete bridge to be rebuilt in Bosnia since 1992. The bridge connects the Muslim and Croat sections of town.
2 May 96, Thur
U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Galbraith and Charles Redman, former coordinator for Bosnia, testified at a closed-door Senate hearing on Iranian arms sales to Bosnia. Clinton and administration officials had ignored the arms smuggling.
EU mediator Bildt warned that the violence in Kosovo was threatening the peace process in Bosnia. He urged Yugoslavia and Albania to “seek a political solution and prevent a major crisis”.
“Democracy” in Croatia
Voters in the Croatian capital, who turned the city government over to an opposition coalition in October, have just discovered a fundamental rule about democracy in the Balkans — people have a choice, as long as they choose what the government wants.And the latest decision by the electorate in Zagreb is clearly not to President Franjo Tudjman’s liking. The election results are currently being adjusted by the president, who is a former Communist general.
Zagreb’s city council, which appoints the mayor and is dominated by the opposition, a group of seven parties, was tossed out the door on Tuesday. The move to dissolve the city council, which took office last October, will ultimately force new elections. And it has triggered an acrimonious power struggle that illustrates Tudjman’s growing intolerance and refusal to sanction democratic change.
Tudjman cited “national security” in exercising his constitutional veto to keep out all four candidates the opposition suggested in the last six months.
In March, Tudjman appointed Marina Matulovic-Dropulic, a former minister of construction, as mayor. She promptly received a vote of no-confidence from the council, a center-left coalition which controls 30 of the 50 seats. Tudjman, in a move that does not appear to have any legal basis, promptly appointed her again.
The city council said this week it would name a “commissioner” to run Zagreb until new citywide elections are held. Meanwhile, Matulovic-Dropulic continues to act as mayor.
Tudjman contends that if the opposition controls the city, Croatia’s economic recovery will be disrupted.
The government said it was forced to dissolve the city council after the Constitutional Court ruled that the city budget was illegal. The Court is dominated by judges appointed by the Tudjman’s governing party, the Croatian Democratic Union.
“The city assembly,” said Dr. Ivic Pasalic, a senior presidential adviser, “has been engaged in unlawful acts. It tried to raise public salaries without proper approval from the budget, a move designed only to win support. And it tried to replace the directors of public utilities.”
But the struggle, centers around the sale of state-owned businesses, many of which have ended up in the hands of close associates of the president.
Tudjman’s party says it will institute new balloting procedures before the next elections, allowing the party with the majority to control the city council. This would bar coalitions, such as the one that won in Zagreb, from taking control of the council.
The government also said it would call for a referendum to see if people wanted another vote, a move that would permit the government to stretch the constitutional deadline that requires that new municipal elections be called 60 days after any council is disbanded.
3 May 96, Fri
A U.S. program to equip and train the Bosnian army is being held up by disagreements between Muslims and Bosnian Croats over a defense law and the presence of foreign forces. The Bosnian Muslim-Croat federation has to resolve its differences over a unified military to clear the way for U.S. military aid. The U.S. also first wants the government to kick out its Iranian advisors. (Ironic, isn’t it?)
The U.S. pledged an additional $3.7 million for the organization of elections in Bosnia. That amount goes to the Bosnian government. Another $4 million has been promised to the OSCE so that it may oversee the elections.
The Republika Srpska released four Croats it had accused of war crimes. Under the Dayton Accord, all POWs should have been released months ago, but the factions are allowed to detain those believed to be guilty of war crimes until the ICTY can assess the charges.
Bosnia arrested two Muslims indicted by the ICTY. It is the first time any of the factions exercised an ICTY arrest warrant. Hazim Delic and Esad Landzo are accused of killing Serbs at the Celebici prison camp, near the Central Bosnian town of Konjic, in 1992. A Bosnian Croat, and another Muslim, have also been indicted for crimes committed in the camp.
The WEU refused to replace NATO if it pulls out of IFOR at the end of 1996. WEU Secretary General Cutileiro, said the WEU does not have the military resources.
The first soccer match in four years in Sarajevo was played before 15,000 fans in bombed out Grbavica Stadium.
A U.S. soldier is in stable condition with a non-life threatening wound after being shot in the stomach. The wound was apparently self-inflicted. It is not known if it was deliberate or an accident.
4 May 96, Sat
Pressure is mounting to arrest indicted war criminals Republika Srpska President Karadzic and General Mladic.
Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell said the entire Bosnian peace process could fall apart if the two are not arrested. He said their arrest is critical because IFOR’s peacekeeping mandate ends in December and because their continued freedom unduly influences the September elections. Mitchell is now chairman of International Crisis Group (ICG) — a world-wide business, political and media organization dedicated to preventing crises through early intervention.
IFOR, which has previously been criticized for not capturing war criminals, said it will detain Karadzic and Mladic if they are encountered during routine patrols, but has ruled out a snatch mission.
Note: Let us not forget that it was the metamorphisis of the mission in Somalia from separating factions and protecting aid to capturing a warlord that led to an embarassing U.S. withdrawal after our Rangers were slaughtered in Mogadishu.