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Small creek, great expectations

By 2nd Lt. Alexandre Barb
First published in
SFOR Informer#115, June 13, 2001

Since it moved from Camp Jussi to Eagle Base at the beginning of May, the Finnish CIMIC Company started small projects in its new area of responsibility. One of them is a bridge reconstruction in co-operation with the Russian engineer unit based in Priboj. It will allow more than 20 Bosnian-Serbs to return to their pre-war homes.

The Finnish CIMIC
37 officers divided in:
3 CIMIC Centres of 9 persons each.
Each centre is made up of two teams of three officers who patrol their respective area almost everyday with a headquarters team.
A CIMIC house recently opened in Bratunac and two others are to be opened very soon in Bijeljina and Janja.
Arrival at Eagle Base: April 1.
Length of tour: one year.

Vujici In the centre of the bridge, or what is left of it, Finnish Capt. Harry Kantola and the Russian Capt. Alexey Elagin talk about the reconstruction plan.
The small bridge of the village of Vujici, on the boundary line between Federation and Republika Srpska, will turn over a new leaf. "It will allow Bosnian-Serb families who are living, at the moment, in Zvornik and Bijeljina to begin to clean their houses. There's about 20 of them on the other side of the bridge, but which no one can access because of its bad shape," declared Kantola, chief of the Finnish 3rd CIMIC Centre at Eagle Base.
It is one of the first projects that the team will lead in co-operation with the Russian engineers of the 1st Peacekeeping Russian Separate Airborne Brigade (PRSAB) based in Camp Priboj. The Finns provided the funding and the material needed (decks and stringers), the Russians, the manpower and the know-how. "Our job will be to take away the metal stringer, to set-up new pillars, then to put back four wooden stringers," explained Elagin, of the Russian engineer company. "The bridge will have a capacity of 15 tonnes. It doesn't need more because there is little traffic here. With a 20-person team, it will take about five or six days to complete the job," he added.
All had been carefully planned. The Russians reconnoitred the bridge a long time ago, but they couldn't begin the work because of the lack of the means. At Camp Priboj, in Maj. Ivan Parfenov's office, chief of the engineer company, Kantola and Capt. Pekka Livari, one of the few of the 37 officers to speak Russian, had a final look at the plans written in Cyrillic. "We are ready to begin the work as soon as we get the material," Parfenov confirmed.
Little streams
This project is the perfect example of the action, although a small case, that Kantola wants to lead. "We try to get non-governmental organisations (NGO) interested by improving the return process from Federation to RS and vice versa. One of our strengths is that we are open to discussion with everyone," he noticed. That means either the local population and its representatives, or international organisations working in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"All the organisations such as OHR, UNHCR, OSCE, Mercy Corps (Scottish NGO), International Rescue Committee (US NGO), Swedish Rescue Services Agency, SRSA (Swedish NGO) were very helpful when we arrived here. Our job is to get people back to their homes rather than to rebuild," confirmed Capt. Oula Lahti, return officer.
On a map stuck on the wall of his office, Kantola stuck little coloured drawing pins to identify the ongoing projects and the situation of people in the field. His area of responsibility spreads form Bijeljina to Zvornik (both in RS) to Srebrenik (Federation, Canton 3) on the west part. He has a lot of work, as he kindly recognised, but nothing seems to be able to weaken its determination and his contentment.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Finland, Russia
DPRE, Engineering - bridge stories