ICG Crisis Brief front page...
  Newsletter of the International Crisis Group Issue 1, May 1997     

by Charles Radcliffe

full story..

Bosnia: peace effort falters
A Statement by the International Crisis Group

full story..

Saving Lives from disaster
an obituary of Nicholas Hinton
by William Shawcross

full story..

Chaos in Central Africa
by David Shearer

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Liberia: railroading peace
by Victor Tanner

full story..

Hope and fear in Sierra Leone
by Charles Radcliffe

full story..


Charles Radcliffe

Production Assistant:
Simon Sheehan

Unless otherwise stated, the views expressed in Crisisbrief are the personal opinions of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of the International Crisis Group.


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Bosnia peace effort falters

A statement by the International Crisis Group

Almost 18 months after the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed in Paris, the prospects for Bosnia staying together look bleak. Though the physical conditions in which most Bosnians live have improved under Dayton, the psychological and institutional foundations for a stable and enduring reintegration of the country have yet to emerge. The effort to implement the Dayton Agreement's civilian provisions, so crucial to the long-term stability and unity of the country, seems to have ground to a halt. In the absence of greater resolve on the part of western governments further progress is unlikely. Increasingly, the break-up of Bosnia, and the renewal of inter-ethnic conflict, is being discussed as a real possibility.

IFOR soldier in Bosnia
An American SFOR soldier stands guard outside Tuzla, Bosnia
Convinced that time is on their side, nationalist leaders within Bosnia undermine the Dayton Agreement at every turn. Public declarations by the US Administration that American forces will leave Bosnia in June 1998 compound the problem. The Serb leaders block all provisions of the Dayton Agreement which stand to compromise independent statehood for Republika Srpska (the Bosnian Serb entity within Bosnia) while the Croat authorities head off attempts at meaningful reintegration within the Federation (the joint Croat-Bosniac entity). This leaves the Bosniac leadership contemplating its options and increasingly mimicking the behaviour of nationalist Serbs and Croats.

While it is not impossible that peace will prevail if NATO pulls out in 1998, few believe it will. Renewed fighting would be a stunning blow to NATO and lead to another humanitarian catastrophe.

The Federation Agreement

Progress toward making the Federation a reality has been painfully slow. It remains divided between Croat- and Muslim-held territory. With the exception of Sarajevo, a minimal number of Croats have returned to their homes in Muslim-controlled territory and vice versa. Expulsions of minorities continue. While common federal institutions exist, key decisions continue to be taken by the Croat president and his Bosniac vice-president. Only a handful of municipal assemblies function; in four municipalities interim assemblies have never convened.

Regional stabilisation

In its initial months, the NATO-led Peace Implementation Force (IFOR) successfully oversaw the cease-fire, the transfer of authority in some areas and the creation of the zone of separation. Since then, IFOR and its successor, SFOR, have concentrated on patrolling the Inter-Entity Boundary Line, while many other aspects of Dayton Agreement, including military aspects, remain unfulfilled. De-mining has yet to begin in earnest, though the clearance of mines was supposed to occur within 30 days of Dayton coming into force. Further progress in implementing the Sub-Regional Arms Control Agreement will be difficult. Srpska, worried about the "Train and Equip" programme, is likely to balk at destroying large numbers of tanks and heavy weaponry.

Return of displaced persons and refugees

Only about 250,000 out of an estimated 2.3 million displaced persons (DPs) have returned home, almost all to areas in which they belong to the ethnic majority. Yet even that figure is high, since 80,000 people, many of them Serbs from the Sarajevo suburbs, have been forced from their homes since the Dayton Agreement was signed. Problems abound. Some 60 per cent of the housing stock was destroyed or damaged during the war. In both Croat- and Serb-controlled areas the houses of DPs have been systematically demolished to prevent returns. UNHCR-organised assessment visits of DPs to their homes are routinely obstructed.

Under present circumstances large-scale forced repatriations of refugees currently in western Europe will cause social unrest and only further solidify Bosnia's ethnic segregation as settlers will be forced to locate to areas where they are in the majority.

A soldier's cemetery in Bosnia
A small child visits a soldiers' cemetery in Rahic, near Brcko. The Bosnian war, which raged from 1992 to 1995, left some 200,000 dead or missing

Co-operation with the International War Crimes Tribunal

The record in arresting and trying indicted war criminals has been lamentable. Key suspects remain at large and routinely obstruct Dayton implementation behind the scenes. Of 74 indictees, eight are in custody - all small fry. Only the Bosniacs have handed over all indictees in their jurisdiction. Croatia and Croat-controlled areas of Bosnia have handed over one out of fourteen. Serbia and Srpska refuse to co-operate at all.


ICG was strongly critical of the decision to push ahead with the national elections last September . Although there was no violence on polling day-60,000 NATO troops and strict ethnic segregation saw to that-but the campaign and the vote itself were deeply flawed. The results gave a fresh mandate to many leaders responsible for the war and with no interest in implementing the peace agreement.

Formation of common institutions and reintegration

The rationale for holding the 1996 elections was that common national institutions were required to help weld Bosnia back together. But the formal creation of these institutions has so far yielded little. While the Presidency meets regularly and a Council of Ministers has been created, key legislation drawn up by the Office of the High Representative to begin the reintegration process has yet to be agreed. The seven-month delay in agreeing Central Bank law-critical to reconstruction and an integral part of the Bosnian Constitution-illustrates the impasse.

Other, tangible forms of reintegration are just not happening. Different systems of car registration in all three ethnically controlled areas make it difficult for Bosnians to travel throughout their country. The absence of direct telephone links makes it nearly impossible for Bosnians to communicate across the entity divide.

Meanwhile, the nationalist media does all it can to keep tensions high. RTV Srpska portrays Srpska as an independent state and places news from the Federation in its foreign section. The Croat station, HTV Mostar, tries to stir up conflict between Croats and Bosniacs. RTV BiH, the Sarajevo state broadcaster, though comparatively moderate, has little positive to say about Srpska or Croat-controlled parts of the Federation. A Bosniac television station, Lilijan TV with a more nationalist news agenda, will be launched later this year.


Infrastructure is being repaired and life is clearly improving, at least in the Federation. Since Dayton came into force, the number of Bosnians dependent on international humanitarian aid has fallen from 2.4 million to below 1 million. About 40,000 housing units out of about 500,000 have been repaired. Donors have pledged $1.8 billion for reconstruction, of which $1.5 billion has been "firmly" committed. Some $850 million of World Bank money has been disbursed, principally to Bosniac-controlled Federation territory where war damage is greatest. About 5 percent went to Federation areas under Croat control and 2 percent to Srpska. As a result, the Federation's economy grew by about 50 percent, but Srpska's is believed to have declined slightly.

In March 1997, the World Bank launched its first project entirely devoted to Srpska. This project, worth $60m, is proceeding despite the Bank's previous commitment to tie distribution of aid to Dayton implementation. While the framework for Bosnia's economic reconstruction is now in place, international investment may work against reintegration unless political issues are resolved first. The experience of the EU Administration of Mostar is telling. Despite the expenditure of 273 million DM-close to 5,000 DM per inhabitant-over 2.5 years, Mostar's divisions are now greater than when EU administrators arrived and the threat of a renewed conflict remains real.

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