SFOR has contributed enormously to the overall improvement in the war-torn
and neglected roads system of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Whilst ensuring
SFOR Freedom of Movement, the improvements have also guaranteed mobility
to the people of BiH and opened up the way to Displaced Persons and
Refugees (DPREs) wishing to return to their pre-war homes.
SFOR has also taken steps to hand back responsibility for road maintenance
to local authorities. Having assessed the suitability of specific companies
to bid for contracts, SFOR engineers now carry out shared-cost 'Joint
Ventures' with the Road Directorates (RD) of both Entities. SFOR continues
to monitor these projects carefully through mobile inspection teams.
NATO-led troops entering BiH in late 1995, found the road system structurally
damaged and completely lacking in maintenance. Bridges and tunnels had
been systematically destroyed and blocked, and were often heavily mined.
The primary aim of the Implementation Force (IFOR) Engineers was to
establish Freedom of Movement. A massive programme of repairs began,
including bypasses and bridges to open essential Theatre and Divisional
Although this work was undertaken using NATO Infrastructure funds, with
the passage of time, more and more international money was invested
in the work. This has allowed temporary military structures, bridges
in particular, to be replaced with permanent civilian ones.
Following SFOR restructuring, completed in early-2000, reduced engineering
assets meant that local authorities had to take a growing responsibility
for road maintenance. A rapid increase in the volume of civilian traffic
on the roads also meant an increasing need to carry out more than just
Memorandum of Understanding
To ensure a way forward, through Joint Ventures with Entity Road Directorates
(RDs), a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was set up to establish procedures.
The long-term aim of the MoU is to hand over an increasing amount of
responsibility to the RDs in sharing the burden of maintenance and reconstruction
work. The first phase of the MoU sees SFOR retaining responsibility
for a few main roads, with RDs taking responsibility for other categories
of road. The cost of these is shared 50-50.
Under the supervision of SFOR, the RDs are responsible for running the
contracting process, with monitoring of the work carried out by both
Thus, the local authorities progressively assume more control, leaving
SFOR able to carry out more projects with the same money. Funds can
thus be used for the many critical tunnels, landslides and rock-overhangs,
which urgently need attention.
Mobile Inspection teams
SFOR Engineers has a number of Freedom of Movement Mobile Teams (FOMETs).
These FOMETs have distinct areas of responsibility in which they work
to improve safety through maintenance, as well as emergency surface
and bridge repair. This is all done in close co-operation with the Entity
RDs. Regular site visits are carried out to examine both work progression
and the materials being used.
SFOR has maintained Freedom of Movement through years of hard work
and investment. Although the need for road maintenance has not disappeared,
it is essential that local authorities play an increasingly active role.
The MoU between the RDs and SFOR is a move towards this.
The terrain of BiH makes every road a precious lifeline. The citizens
of this Country need to be able to move freely, and every road is a
conduit by which DPREs are able to return to their homes.