The Morning Call

Bos­nia marks 25 years since peace ac­cords

- By Sabina Nik­sic Military · Middle East News · Politics · Warfare and Conflicts · World Politics · Bosnia and Herzegovina · Sarajevo · Dayton · Ohio · Dayton · Joe Biden · Joe · United States of America · Serbia · Yugoslavia · Dayton, Waupaca County, WI

SARA­JEVO, Bos­nia-Herze­gov­ina — As their eth­nic lead­ers gath­ered around a ta­ble out­side Day­ton, Ohio, to ini­tial a U.S.bro­kered peace deal a quar­ter­century ago, Edisa Se­hic and Janko Samoukovic still were en­e­mies in a war in Bos­nia that killed over 100,000 peo­ple.

But the two, one an eth­nic Bos­niak woman and the other an eth­nic Serb man, have of­ten come to­gether in re­cent years to visit schools and town halls where they talk about the fu­til­ity of war from their first­hand ex­pe­ri­ences.

In many ways, Bos­nia to­day is a coun­try at peace, a tes­ta­ment to the suc­cess of the Day­ton Ac­cords, which ended more than 31⁄ years of blood­shed

2 when they were en­dorsed 25 years ago on Satur­day.

But more than a gen­er­a­tion af­ter the shoot­ing and shelling stopped, full peace still feels elu­sive in Bos­nia, where the April 1992-De­cem­ber 1995 war gave rise to an eth­nic cleans­ing cam­paign and Europe’s first geno­cide since World War II.

The coun­try’s three eth­nic groups — Mus­lim Bos­ni­aks, Ortho­dox Serbs and Catholic Croats — live in fear of re­newed con­flict as their na­tion­al­ist lead­ers con­tinue to stoke eth­nic an­i­mosi­ties for po­lit­i­cal gain.

Some Bos­ni­ans hope the elec­tion of Joe Bi­den as the next U.S. pres­i­dent will bol­ster change by re­new­ing West­ern in­ter­est in the coun­try, one of Europe’s poor­est.

Bi­den vis­ited Bos­nia in 2009 as vice pres­i­dent, be­com­ing the last key U.S. leader to do so.

When the Day­ton peace agree­ment was reached in 1995, Se­hic was a sol­dier with the

Bos­nian gov­ern­ment army and Samoukovic was fight­ing with Bos­nian Serb troops seek­ing to dis­mem­ber the coun­try and unite the ter­ri­tory they claimed for their own with neigh­bor­ing Ser­bia.

The war was sparked by the breakup of Yu­goslavia, which led Bos­nia to de­clare its in­de­pen­dence de­spite op­po­si­tion from eth­nic Serbs, who made up about one-third of its eth­ni­cally and re­li­giously mixed pop­u­la­tion.

Armed and backed by neigh­bor­ing Ser­bia, Bos­nian Serbs con­quered 60% of Bos­nia’s ter­ri­tory in less than two months, com­mit­ting atroc­i­ties against their Bos­niak and Croat com­pa­tri­ots.

Be­fore the war was over, some 100,000 peo­ple had been killed and up­ward of 2 mil­lion, or over a half of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion, driven from their homes.

“When the (peace) agree­ment was reached, I was happy that there will be no more blood and death around us, hope­ful that to­gether we can start build­ing a bet­ter fu­ture,” Se­hic said. “But as time went by, I re­al­ized that the shoot­ing had stopped, but lit­tle else had changed.”

While it brought an end to the fight­ing, the Day­ton Ac­cords for­mal­ized the eth­nic di­vi­sions, es­tab­lish­ing a com­pli­cated and frag­mented state struc­ture with two semi-au­ton­o­mous en­ti­ties, Serb-run Repub­lika Srp­ska and a fed­er­a­tion shared by Bos­ni­aks and Croats, linked by weak joint in­sti­tu­tions.

The deal “was es­sen­tially an armistice struck be­tween a col­lec­tion of war­lords who are still present in the coun­try, but had re­fash­ioned them­selves as po­lit­i­cal lead­ers,” said Jas­min Mu­janovic, a U.S.-based po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist of Bos­nian ori­gin.

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