Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bosnia: a common police, but the struggle continues

Bosnia's Serbs have given in: Bosnia will get a common police. But the struggle continues. Next on the wishlist are a common central bank, a single president and much more.
The sad thing is that one of the basic principles of keeping peace is violated: keep your appointments. Just as it is not wise to change sensitive borders it is not wise to keep changing sensitive treaties. It creates distrust and its keeps people focussed on the conflict instead of on the things that they have in common. It is no coincidence that the ethnic seperation in Bosnia is only increasing - not decreasing. As the ICG reports: except for Tuzla in all cities one ethnic groups now constitutes over 90% of the population.

Colonial style
The European stability Initiative (ESI) wrote in 2003 a report "Travails Of The European Raj" in which it compared the role OHR in Sarajevo with the colonial administration in India. At that time the report got much approval, but nothing changed and now it is half forgotten. This is unfortunate because the similarities go even further as the report describes. One of the fates on colonial rule is that it ends up favouring one group above the other. It is unavoidable because without local support you cannot rule a colony (or Bosnia). A truely neutral position is impossible because it will sooner or later put off both sides. And so we see that the "peacekeepers" in Bosnia (and also in Kosovo) have ended up in a very partial position. It could have been largely avoided by giving them a very restricted mission, but this hasn't been done.

War crimes
This brings me to the warcrimes - the main excuse for the continuing intervention. Major warcrimes should be punished, but in this case the warcrimes have become a tool for one party to hammer the other. So instead of making peace acceptable it serves to keep the conflict alive. To avoid this I think we should apply the following rules:
- make a distinction between war criminals and passive accomplices. In a war situation people are under strong pressure to be "nationalist". People who went along in such situation (often they had no choice) and were passively involved in warcrimes shouldn't be classified as war criminals.
- an effort should be made for objective history writing. This should begin with the fraudulent referendum that gave Bosnia its independence (or even before that). By focussing on a few things like the Srebrenica massacre we are creating a fake history. This is not recognizable as the truth for many people. And by covering uip many things it gives other people a license to do them again.
If this seems a weird suggestion, please consider that it was how the South African truth commsision worked.

1 comment:

oskar said...


Yugoslavia would most likely have been better off if some of the wounds after WWII had been resolved instead of covered up.

On the other hand, I agree with you that the focus on warcrimes and Srebrenica seem to be more about politics than about resolving long term issues and creating a stable and common future.