By 2nd Lt. Alexandre Barb
First published in
SFOR Informer#116, June 27, 2001
The SFOR patrol base called Raven
closed June 20, after six months of it being in existence. It
was set up by the Nordic-Polish Battle Group (NPBG) to ensure
a safe and secure environment for Bosnian-Serbs returning and
rebuilding their pre-war homes. This closure is a clear sign in
favour of the return process. There is no tension.
The situation in Bocinja
before the war
3,500 inhabitants, majority of Bosnian-Serbs
1 primary school
1 cultural centre
1 telephonic centre
7 houses occupied by Bosniacs, about 30 people
26 houses occupied by 34 Bosnian-Serb families, about 110
1 telephonic line: Bocko Jovanovic
Bocinja Donja The sun flooded the sky. Only
a zephyr could sweep up the yard of the Polish base called Raven
(the Polish name for Eole, king of the winds in the Greek mythology).
Has peace come back to Bocinja? Polish Col. Franciszek Kochanowski,
commanding the Nordic-Polish Battle Group (NPBG), is convinced
of it. Thats why he decided, with the agreement of Maj.
Gen. Walter Sharp, commanding Multinational Division North
(MND-N), to close the patrol base. Many arguments point in his
Six months of SFOR presence resulted in great progress,
declared Col. Kochanowski to American Col. Barry Fowler, MND-N
Chief Of Staff. First of all, it allowed the re-settlement of
several Bosnian-Serbs. Then this operation became a great success.
Finally, the time has come to create a normal civilian life. Removing
soldiers will mean that its a safe place, he argued.
three points need explanation. As for the re-settlement of Bosnian-Serbs,
the allusion to the ceremony of March 15 (SFOR
Informer no. 109) is very clear. That day, many organisations,
among which the Office of the High Representative, the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and SFOR, symbolically
handed back the keys of 18 houses to families of displaced persons
and refugees. It marked the beginning of the returns in this village
which had been given as an award at the end of the
war to fundamentalist foreigner fighters. Since then, only one
man had succeeded in settling in the village in May 2000, Bocko
Jovanovic, now the Bosnian-Serbs villagers spokesperson.
A troubled past
Indeed, the return and the implementation of the former Bosnian-Serb
inhabitants of the village hasnt been easy. Last January,
thanks to a political change at the head of Maglaj municipality,
and according to the texts gathered in the Property Law Implementation
Plan, evictions of illegal occupants began, sometimes without
trouble. At that time, the Polish B Coy was keeping the base.
It handed over this duty to A Coy in April. Month by month, the
checkpoints at the entrance and the exit of the village were removed.
The number of soldiers decreased, as well as patrols.
we spend 10 days on the base with 13 soldiers and we perform six
patrols a day, among which two are night patrols. These patrols
are made up of three patrols in our Honkers (Polish Jeep) and
three foot patrols, stressed Warrant Officer Gregory Nicinski,
Base Commander. However, seven houses are still occupied by Bosniacs,
but this time legally, because they bought them from their former
Bosnian-Serbs owners. A Coy has a three-team rotation per month
on the base, which is based at the former primary school of the
According to Kochanowski, the primary school should soon be back
to life, filled with children. Bocko Jovanovic wants to restore
it, as well as the former cultural centre. That would have as
a direct effect, to definitely settle the Bosnian-Serb families
in the village, and to allow others to come back. Bocko Jovanovic
declared in late March that more than 260 families want
to re-settle in the village.
In this context, the withdrawal of the Polish troops will allow
them to rebuild a normal civilian life. The Bosnian-Serb
villagers were quite reluctant about that decision in the beginning,
but they finally accepted it after the Poles set up an information
campaign on this topic. It seems that there is no trouble remaining
But that withdrawal decision was also dictated for operational
reasons. Indeed, the NPBG is engaged in guarding the weapon storage
site (WSS) of the Bosnian-Croat component of the Federation Army
(VF-H) called Tatrbuzak (SFOR Informer no.115). The closure of
Raven Base will also allow an operational company to get back
to other duties.
have good co-operation with Bocinja local police and the International
Police Task Force. In the beginning, the local police stayed behind
SFOR. Now, they do a very good job. Among the 20 local officers,
five are Bosnian-Serbs, Kochanowski mentioned. However,
during the month after our withdrawal, well lead enhanced
patrols in co-operation with the CIMIC. If nothing happens, well
decrease these patrols. I think that the rebuilding process will
go quickly and smoothly, he concluded.
The Bosnian-Serb community of the village has now to find the
necessary funds to rebuild the houses, the school and the cultural
centre. There are a lot of projects. There were few people who
would have dared to think that Bocinja would live again one day
with its former inhabitants. That dream is within reach.
Nations of SFOR: Poland
SFOR at Work