Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Dreams of a Unified Bosnia Fade as Ethnic Lines Harden

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Dreams of a Unified Bosnia Fade as Ethnic Lines Harden

Article excerpt

The gang of Bosnian Muslim teenagers waited patiently for the busload of Serbs. They had clubs ready and stones in hand to block any Serbs who might dare to cross this ethnic boundary to visit family graves.

Elderly women waited, too, "armed" with sticks and joking as they sat beside the road. Previous visits - arranged by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to facilitate ethnic integration - had been thwarted and buses smashed.

This day the Serbs do not come. But the incident highlights a critical problem: For many here, the divide between Muslim, Serb, and Croat is as wide as ever, despite the peace accord signed in Dayton, Ohio, last November.

As bands of Bosnians from all ethnic groups lie in wait at similar ethnic junctions across the country, the ideal of harmony and ethnic integration envisioned in the Dayton accord erodes daily. The agreement guarantees freedom of movement and the safe return of some 2 million refugees to their homes.

But Bosnians brave enough to test those provisions are being blocked and find that the forces of division are now stronger than the forces of unity. Regardless of the peace, Bosnian remains partitioned along ethnic lines.

"I've not seen my father for four years, and the Serbs could at least tell me if he is alive or dead," says teenager Edin Music at the makeshift Hadzici checkpoint on the western outskirts of Sarajevo.

"They destroyed the city and everything, and now they want to come again. We are not going to make any provocation. We are just not going to let them go," he says.

The anger of this Muslim crowd is telling, since their government in Sarajevo is the strongest supporter of the Dayton accord. Bosnian Serbs, whose forces conducted brutal campaigns of "ethnic cleansing" against Muslims and Croats during the four-year war, oppose the accord far more.

"I'm from a village where {the Serbs} destroyed everything, where they killed many civilians," say young Muslim Mirsad Dupovac. The crowd of other teenagers nod their support.

"The people who did the crimes left, and now they want to come back. It is not allowed," he says.

'You can't force consent'

The Dayton agreement assumes that peace will bring reconciliation. But recent clashes between ethnic groups - some of them lethal - have shown instead that few are willing to forgive.

"If an old lady can't go back to put flowers on a grave, it does not bode well to get people to go back and live there," says Kris Janowski, the spokesman for the UNHCR. So far, only 60,000 refugees have returned to their homes as few have risked moving back to areas now controlled by another ethnic group.

Separatist Bosnian Serbs, who waged the war to rule out living with Muslims, are still openly hostile to the peace plan. Not one Muslim has yet returned to live in Serb territory, Mr. …

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