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Ambassadors of Peace and reconstruction

By 1Lt Alexander Barb
First published in
SFOR Informer #96, September 13, 2000

Doboj - The town of Doboj was stirring but not because it was market day. That day, the Carsija neighbourhood, located above the city, was under the spotlight. Wolfgang Petritsch, the High Representative for Bosnia and Hercegovina, together with several ambassadors and officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), visited the area.
It was the second time this year that 23 ambassadors, divided into three groups (one per multinational division (MND), had come closer to the local populations to get a better understanding of how the funds given for aid programmes are being used.

The Office of the High Representative (OHR) as well as the UNHCR organized the visit with the help of SFOR. Each group visited two different sites: Carsija and Jablanica in MND North, Starigrad and Vecici in MND South West, Dubrava and Tjentiste in MND South East.
The Carsija neighbourhood is located in the Doboj old town. In the beginning of the 90s, there were more than 2,000 houses where Bosnian people lived. Then came the war. Today, only a few buildings are left undamaged, some of them being used by displaced Bosnian-Serb people. However, reconstruction is under way. Since the beginning of the year, 180 houses have been rebuilt, and 31 Bosniak families have returned. In the near future, 2,000 families are expected to return.

As the group arrived, Wolfgang Petritsch at its head, the crowd clapped.
"I am very happy to see that reconstruction is well on its way. With the international community support, we must consolidate the progress that has already been made," he said.

After a walk round the neighbourhood with Maj. Gen. Roger Duburg Deputy Commander SFOR, and Maj. Gen. Robert Halverson, Commander MND-N, they visited one of the inhabitants, Mirica Elez.
She has just come back to her house and lives there with another person. Her husband is dead and she has been separated from her son since the war.
"It is really hard to come back here. Nobody has got a house to live in. Very often you find yourself alone. My son has come to see me for the first time in five years. All I am asking is to live in peace," she said with tears in her eyes.

"The international community is doing its best to facilitate the resettlements of the populations, but there is still a lot of work to be done, I am aware of it," the High Representative stated. "Yet, we are under the impression that here, in Doboj, people want to live together," he insisted.
Sue Birchmore also thinks this way. She is the representative of World Vision International, a non-governmental organization (NGO) involved in the UN program since 1995.
"I arrived here in May and I have to say the people are quite friendly. I am convinced that with the right aid programme, they will be back on their feet again," she said.

In Jablanica, in the municipality of Maglaj (MND North), the return of Bosniaks and-Bosnian Serbs seems well under way. Since the beginning of the year, more than 60 people have come back home from the Republika Sprska (RS). The town hall, as a token of its good will, has just offered an administrative job to a Bosnian-Serb.

Ambassador Salah El Ashry, from Egypt, was one of the guests.
"We have been here since 1996, and when I look at the work that remains to be done, I know that our actions here have been helpful. I believe we will extend our help outside Sarajevo, a city in which we have been involved in the reconstruction of schools, an orphanage and other offices," he explained.
"We will also proceed with our training programmes (doctors, policemen…) by offering training sessions in Egypt. This is the best way to help them rebuild their country," he added.
Petritsch concluded the day by declaring: "Our help will only be useful provided people talk to each other, and that is what is happening again now. There still are differences but it is our job to find solutions to help them. I have seen the work accomplished by all the people and organizations and I am sure this visit helped convince donators to continue their efforts. For nowadays, there is no reconstruction without a renewed economy."

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