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New Finnish CIMIC house in Bijeljina

By 2nd Lt. Bruno Ménard
First published in
SFOR Informer#117, July 11, 2001

To support the minority return process is part of SFOR's mission. This is illustrated by the clearly expected opening of a CIMIC house in the Northeast of the country.

Bijeljina - A new SFOR Finnish action took place, in favour of civilians in the Northeast of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). July 3, a new CIMIC House was opened in Bijeljina. Rented in a private house, it was inaugurated by the Commander of the Peacekeeping Russian Separate Airborne Brigade (PRSAB) and the Mayor of the city. After the festivities, the work began! It is not yet open, but a multicolour clothed group waits in front of the doors for two hours. They want to be the first to have information and help. Three Finnish officers and an interpreter are there to welcome these people who come needing help. The opening hours are on Tuesdays between 1300 and 1600, but often they will close later, because there will still be people waiting in the street.
There are now four houses, one in Modrica, one in Bratunac, one in Janja, which opened two weeks ago, and this one in Bijeljina. The next house to be opened will be in Zvornik, but the date is not known at this moment. It forms a kind of humanitarian chain along the eastern border with Serbia. Its main task is to support the minority returns process. This means they collect information about the problems the native people have and also the project requests for CIMIC and donors.
Finnish Capt. Harry Kantola, CIMIC press information officer, underlined that they "have had an extremely good start with the international organisations, non-governmental organisations and the other military forces working in this area".
"A mobile CIMIC house"
"The work of CIMIC is not sitting in the office, but working in the field among the people," he added. Actually, the CIMIC team also patrols the area and can evaluate the problems of the local people. "It is a mobile CIMIC house," said Capt. Pekka Iivari, a member of the team. And it is also an opportunity to show SFOR presence. In fact, according to Capt. Kantola, the permanent CIMIC House is just an "additional point of contact where we can discuss and try to solve the problems and questions we cannot solve in the field." As the Officer Commanding the Finnish National Support Element and senior representative of the Finnish Contingent, Lt. Col. Kristian Forsell, said in his speech: "we must not forget though, that CIMIC officers also provide this very same information everywhere they drive in their patrol cars."
So, good luck to the new CIMIC House in Bijeljina.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Finland