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SFOR supports smooth elections in BiH

By Capt. Luis Barber
First published in
SFOR Informer #101, November 22, 2000

Sarajevo - The Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH) General Elections took place Nov. 11. SFOR supported the lead International Organisation supervising the elections, which was the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), within means and capabilities before, during, and after the event.
They did this by ensuring the continuation of a safe and secure environment, assisting the local authorities as they carried out their law enforcement and freedom of movement responsibilities with respect to the OSCE, and by reporting on the peaceful and democratic conduct of the elections.
SFOR troops provided a low-key presence during the elections, while other means to support OSCE were carried out.
A special Joint Operations Centre (JOC) was set up in the OSCE Headquarters (HQ) for monitoring the elections. This was comprised of members of that organisation with liaison officers of others. SFOR sent Cmdr. Stephan Helbig, of the German Navy from CJ2, and German Capt. Hubertus von Hobe from CJ3, as representatives of SFOR Headquarters.
This cell worked non-stop from 4:30 in the morning to 10 in the evening of Election Day (E-Day).
"We spent a lot of time watching our computer screen. The information flowed from the MNDs and OSCE Regional Centres very fast, and we were able to answer the questions in only few minutes," said von Hobe.
During the election week, two meetings were held every day at the JOC. In them, besides OSCE and SFOR, organisations like IPTF, OHR, ECMM, UNHCR and the Swiss Support Unit were represented. The aim was to keep everyone informed before and during the elections.
The HQ SFOR election cell was placed at its usual JOC in Camp Butmir. British Lt. Col. Dick Park, JOC Director, explained that despite incoming information being more than usual, they were working in the JOC with the same people in the same way.
"The only difference is the presence of the Liaison Officer to OSCE," he said. Any request for support coming from OSCE had to reach this JOC.
The Multinational Specialised Unit (MSU) deployed its companies throughout the country. One company was assigned to every Multinational Division and another one, Company Charlie, stayed in its base "Ready On Call". Its commander, Italian Capt. Gianfranco Riccelli, explained that they were organised in three platoons.
"One is providing security in our base, another is the rapid reaction platoon, ready in only one hour, and the last one is the second to be deployed, if necessary, in three hours," he said. Due to their high mobility by helicopter means, this company covered all of the territory.
CJ2 GEO was in charge of providing mapping support to OSCE. One thousand specifics maps were prepared and delivered to OSCE.
"This is a special map on a 1:500,000 scale, which shows interested details for OSCE supervisors. SFOR routes, location of minefields, OSCE Regional Centres and Field Offices, IPTF Stations and other information for emergencies," said Lt. Walter David, Italian Army and Deputy Chief of GEO.
Canadian Sgt. Gary Saulnier, of Terrain Analysis, worked on the map in conjunction with OSCE members.
"It was a very hard job to do because we had to put a lot of new labels top and bottom which we had to transfer from the route map to make the Election Map," he explained.
OSCE was also supported in communications. For this, a co-operation was made between CJ6 HQ SFOR and the European Community Monitoring Mission (ECMM) with the aim of using the ECMM Very High Frequency (VHF) net. SFOR updated their communications assets to have them ready during the elections.
Two buildings were designated for special security status: the OSCE warehouse in Rajlovac and the Counting Centre in downtown Sarajevo. MND-SE was in charge of contributing to their security.
Finally, located at the Coalition Press Information Centre (CPIC) in Sarajevo, the Press Conference room was given to OSCE to perform its press conferences.
A very quite day was expected for the E-Day and it came true.
"We worked altogether during four months before this day. A very quiet E-Day is the product of a very good preparation," said von Hobe.
Austrian Maj. Helmut Korak, Chief of Theatre Operations in OSCE, explained that they started to work with SFOR in July and they had an excellent relationship.
"SFOR's support is crucial to OSCE." he said.

Related links:
SFOR at Work,
Historic Moments
Nations of SFOR: Germany, Italy, Canada