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When words can't describe

By 1st Lt. Kristoffer Egeberg
First published in
SFOR Informer#114, May 30, 2001

Nezira Hasanovic smiles, but her eyes are flooded with tears. She is talking about her lost ones, her husband and two sons lost in the battle of Srebrenica. Only one picture of her oldest son is left as a concrete memory - a picture from the morgue, which was used to identify him.

Drina valley - Her story is not unique. Many share with her the horror brought upon the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war. And many of them are still in refuge, waiting to return to what is left of their homes. Even now, six years after the war ended, more than 518,000 are displaced persons within BiH. Helping them come back to their homes is one of SFOR's tasks. Not only through providing a safe and secure environment, but also through Civilian Military Co-operation (CIMIC) joining forces with the international community (IC), non-governmental organizations (NGO) and local authorities for the benefit of the people.
Norwegian Commander Thorbjorn Braset leads the CMIC liaisons to the IC in Multinational Division - North (MND-N). Good co-operation is of paramount importance in order to co-ordinate aid to the people, something his team worked hard to achieve.
"This co-operation is extremely important. We need a continuous exchange of information in order to get a clear picture of the situation. This information ranges from which places returnees want to come back to, requests for support of different projects, situations or incidents which require special monitoring or security measures for returnees, and so on," he said.
The northern Drina valley area is one of those requiring extra focus and monitoring. Until recently the returns have gone slowly in this area, with a number hard-liners trying to oppose the process. But now numbers of returnees are increasing rapidly. People want to move home.
"We currently have 312 return sites where people are starting to move back. This is very different from the case a year and a half ago. At that time the return-process was very slow here compared to the rest of BiH. Now the activity is bursting," said Sarah Rattray. She leads UNHCR's office in Zvornik, which deals with DPRE in the region. At least once a week she meets with SFOR to co-ordinate the ongoing process.
"SFOR's involvement is extremely important. We don't have the resources they have, and would not have been able to get the information we needed with out their help," she said.
In the field
The CIMIC teams patrolling all over at large gather this information. Finnish Maj. Heikky Wala is part of the Finnish CIMIC coy, which recently moved from Camp Jussi in Doboj to Eagle Base in Tuzla. With a new area to cover, they will be the eyes and ears the IC needs to keep the return-process running smoothly.
In the small village of Bacuta, a small group of men have started the hard work of rebuilding their houses.
"All 26 houses in this village were totally destroyed. Now, 20 families want to return. But the road to this town is almost unusable. Therefore we are planning to reconstruct it so the villagers can get materials up to the site," Wala said. The 1.8-kilometre road is really in a sad condition, but thanks to the recourses of the CIMIC, tasks and projects which seem impossible to manage by the returnees themselves, can be resolved.
"These people are moving back from Tuzla, Zenica and Sarajevo. And there are many villages like this all over. People want to move back to where they were before the war," Wala said.
But there is a difference between wanting to and being able to. Still a lot of villages are impossible to return to. Some places are still heavily mined or lack important pieces of infrastructure, which must be constructed before anyone can return.
"Every return process has a domino-effect. Some DPRE houses are occupied by others, who again have a house, which is occupied by others. To end this effect requires donors who are willing to build more houses," Braset said.
"But there is hope. Much good has happened already. Our contributing nations have used a lot of economic and human resources in the return process of this country," he said.

Related links: CIMIC, DPRE
Nations of SFOR: Finland, Norway