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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid