Bosnia Remade: Ethnic Cleansing and Its Reversal

By Gerard Toal; Carl T. Dahlman | Go to book overview

7
Building Capacity

Houses burning through the night were a telltale sign of ethnic cleansing during the Bosnian war. But in August 1997, almost two years after Dayton, they were a sign that the international effort to promote minority returns was in trouble. The homes belonged to Bosniaks who had tried to return to villages near the HDZ-controlled town of Jajce but were chased away by marauding gangs of Bosnian Croats, including the local HVO militia. The attacks were instigated by Bosnian Croat leaders, including the HDZ wartime president, Dario Kordić, in response to the hundreds of Bosniaks who had returned during June and July to the villages of Lendići, Bučići, Šibenica, Divičani, and Kruščica (fig. 7.1).1 Trouble began at the end of July when HDZ mobs erected roadblocks to stop returning Bosniaks, after which hundreds of Bosnian Croats, many quite drunk, stormed through villages in eastern Jajce where the returnees had been rebuilding their homes for several weeks.2 Local police did nothing to stop the violence and neither did British SFOR troops, who arrived on the scene only to explain to journalists that “SFOR is not a police force.”3 When the violence ended four days later, around 500 returning Bosniaks had fled and house fires were burning across the opština, including one that killed a returnee. The OSCE aptly dubbed the episode “ethnic re-cleansing” and the OHR and UNHCR demanded that Jajce create safe conditions for return within forty-eight hours.4

The hundreds of Bosniaks who had returned to Jajce in the weeks before the attack did so spontaneously, with little organized assistance. Yet this had not been the plan. Jajce was one of four opštine—along with Croat-held

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