Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Ethnic Split in Bosnia Still Widens at Deadline

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Ethnic Split in Bosnia Still Widens at Deadline

Article excerpt

FOR Bosnia, it should be a historic moment: After nearly four years of brutal war, the capital Sarajevo will reunite tomorrow in line with the Dayton peace agreement.

But what should have been a triumph - Bosnia's Muslims, Croats, and Serbs celebrating living together once again - has instead broken down into lawlessness, mistrust, and turmoil.

The Dayton deadline Tuesday, known as D+90 because it falls 90 days after the accord took effect, permits armed forces of the Bosnian Muslim-Croat and Serb entities to deploy for the first time in all territories that have been transferred from rival control.

But today Bosnia's ethnic groups are as divided and fearful of living with each other as ever, according to officials of the United Nations and the NATO-led peace Implementation Forces (IFOR). Many question whether the goal of a multiethnic Sarajevo and Bosnia, the cornerstone for the peace deal, is within reach.

The last of five Serb-held Sarajevo districts, Grbavica, reverts to Bosnian government control tomorrow. But the month-long process has sparked a massive exodus of some 60,000 Serbs and a campaign of systematic burning and looting that has turned the suburbs into a wasteland.

Under the watchful eyes of IFOR, Bosnia's ethnic groups have divided and separated themselves further.

Western officials say that such a dangerous precedent in Sarajevo - which appears to be orchestrated as much by the Muslim and Croat authorities as by the Serbs - is poisoning prospects for reconciliation throughout Bosnia.

"I wouldn't say that everything has been successful - far from it," says Carl Bildt, the European Union's representative for Bosnia whose task is to oversee rebuilding. So far, he says, "the forces of ethnic separation are stronger than the forces of reintegration."

Mr. Bildt's office is seeking some $5 billion from donors over the next three years to convince Bosnians that peace pays more than war.

But so far, donors are reluctant to finance large aid projects when political leaders from all sides seem intent on thwarting reconciliation.

Ironically, a meeting of bankers and donors in Sarajevo was held over the weekend at the Holiday Inn, just 200 yards from the burning buildings of Grbavica. "It is disgraceful for the international community to promise millions and millions to rebuild, while millions goes up in flames. Something is wrong," a senior UN official says.

US Adm. Leighton Smith, commander of the peace force in Bosnia, says that the root of the problem is faction leaders. "I don't see the political direction that supports the Dayton accord. I think the political will in this country has got to be generated and demonstrated in a graphic way," he says.

Examples of what has gone wrong are also graphic, and easy to see in the suburb of Ilidza, which came under rule by Muslim-Croat federation police on March 12. …

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