News / Europe

Sarajevo Marks 15 Years Since End of Balkans War

The US ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Patrick Moon, signs a book of condolences in memory of US diplomat Richard Holbrooke in Sarajevo, Dec 14, 2010
The US ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Patrick Moon, signs a book of condolences in memory of US diplomat Richard Holbrooke in Sarajevo, Dec 14, 2010
Henry Ridgwell

Fifteen years ago, the Dayton Peace Accords ended a vicious inter-ethnic war in the former Yugoslavia that left 100,000 people dead and spawned the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II. As the accords are being remembered, the world also is mourning the death Monday of U.S. Envoy Richard Holbrooke, who guided the peace deal to completion.

Sarajevo's busy streets are now filled with coffee shops, bars and boutiques. Only the shrapnel and bullet holes in some buildings give a clue to its recent history.

The city was held under siege for 43 months during the early- and mid-1990s. Its people lived in terror as shells and sniper fire rained down from the surrounding hills. An estimated 12,000 people died.

The only escape from the city was a tunnel dug beneath the airport that brought supplies in and people out. The battle scarred house where the tunnel emerged is now a museum. Edis Kolar, a former soldier who owns the house, says the people of Sarajevo want to move on.

"When Bosnian people come to see the tunnel, I can see they are trying to move on," Kolar said. "They are trying to keep the war in history and museums. "The problem is the politicians are not letting us forget."

The U.S.-brokered Dayton Peace Accords were signed 15 years ago, bringing together Serbian, Bosnian and Croat leaders. Bosnian politicians agree that the accords were successful in bringing peace and stability to the Balkans. But otherwise, many say, the region is divided.

Former Bosnian President Haris Silajdzic was part of the delegation at Dayton in the U.S. Midwestern state of Ohio. He said that by giving the Bosnian Serbs their own autonomous region known as Republika Srpska as part of the agreement, the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia is being perpetuated.

"What we now see is the attempt to legalize what happened here, to put the international stamp on it like it was okay.  [Former Serbian President Slobodan] Milosevic's project is being completed as we speak now."

Former Bosnian Croat politician Kresimir Zubak also was at Dayton. He agrees that ethnic divisions need to be addressed. Zubak said that "after the goals the different sides had in 1992 were not achieved by force, they are now trying to achieve them by political means."

Most Serbs, though, want to preserve the terms of the Dayton agreement. Slavko Jovicic is a Bosnian Serb politician in parliament. "One thing can never happen in Bosnia-Herzegovina and that's the dominance of one group over others," he said. "We say that without a Republika Srpska, there will be no Bosnia-Herzegovina."

Such divisions are mirrored in Bosnia's education system, as different ethnic groups are taught different curricula in separate classes.

At the United World College in the city of Mostar, however, scene of some of the fiercest fighting during the war, things are different. Bosnian Muslim, Serb and Croat students mingle inside and outside the classroom, where they study together.

Students of each ethnic group are optimistic about Bosnia's future.

"I think the situation will change, maybe in this generation," said one female student. "We are the new generation that should definitely lead into something more bright," replied a male student. Another male student opined, "It's a process and it's going to take a while."

Mostar is famous for its Ottoman bridge, which stood for more than 400 years - until it was shelled during the war.

The destruction of the bridge came to symbolize the wanton destruction of the war. Its restoration in 2004 showed that many of the physical scars of the war are being healed.  But many of the political and mental scars remain.

Most politicians here agree that Bosnia's future should lie within the European Union. That future, analysts say, depends on the ability of the people here to overcome the conflicts of the past.

Related video report by Henry Ridgwell:

You May Like

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs