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

Video VOA ‘Town Hall’ Shines Light on Ebola Crisis

Experts call for greater speed in identification and treatment of deadly disease More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

Funding Program Helps Extremely Poor in Ghana

Broad objective for Ghana's social cash transfer program is to lessen the impact of poverty on the most vulnerable people, elderly, orphans, those with disabilities 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.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid