By Cpl. Nicolas Girault
First published in
SFOR Informer#117, July 11, 2001
For the fourth time in three years, the Multinational
Division SW welcomed the Ambassadors' trip. The selected sites
were chosen as areas of return for displaced persons: Halapic
village in Glamoc Municipality (Federation, Canton 10), and Radic
village, in Bosanska Krupa Municipality (Federation, Canton 1).
Podgrmec - The American Blackhawk helicopter is
landing in a field, soon followed by a second one and a Bell;
helmeted and armed Czech soldiers are present. At the field exit,
Federation police officers are waiting near their vehicles. The
delegation begins their journey, and after two or three kilometres,
are welcomed by about 100 people. Their feelings visibly oscillate
between curiosity and enthusiasm. The ambassadors stop in Podgrmec.
hamlet near Radic village (in Bosanska Krupa Municipality). It
is the second and final stage of this day.
same morning, a helicopter flew them from Butmir camp, and the
group arrived at 12:50 in Halapic village, about eight kilometres
from Glamoc. Firmly flanked by Canadian soldiers, they were welcomed
by the chief of the Drvar's Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Daniel Alkhal. He summarized
the social, political and humanitarian situation of both the municipality
and the village. Then the local Mayor, the CIMIC unit from Tomislavgrad
and Alkhal presented their points of view about the local situation
and problems about the settling in of returnees in Halapic. After
these talks, thanks to the interpreters, the delegation were able
to meet the local people and ask questions.
Halapic is the area, which has the best results for minority returns
in Glamoc Municipality. The opstina is unfortunately better known
for the harassing, and sometimes violence (notably in August 2000
and May 2001), against the few returnees returning to their pre-war
village was populated with 80 families, mostly Bosnian-Serb, before
the war. The returns started in 1998: 40 families came back, 29
from Republika Srpska and 11 from Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
UNHCR and SFOR facilitated these returns, through the CIMIC office
of Tomislavgrad (ex-Duvno), thanks to the resupply of electricity
to the area. Maj. Gen. John Kiszely, Deputy Commander of SFOR
for Operations (DCOMOPS), declared that "(he) came in this
area which was desolated in 1996, and today (he) can see people
coming back and rebuilding the community. It is not perfect, of
course, but it is a beginning." He insisted on the fact that
the returns were possible thanks to the "safe and secure
environment provided by SFOR." The recent decision to reduce
the area of the Resolute Barbara Range is moving in the appropriate
direction (See article in this issue).
Mr Luis Barreira de Sousa, from the Embassy of Portugal, said
that the scene here was the same as everywhere: "like in
Drvar, at first, old people are coming back first, followed by
the youngsters, and then the economic activities can start again."
To change the population of an area modifies the political landscape.
Displaced persons returning to their pre-war homes does not count
for much, because they do accept being treated as an inferior
An important day
The Podgrmecs situation is different; B-Serbs who left the
area were chased out during the Croatian offensive in 1995; returns
are only now beginning. The population is comprised of ten local
communities in nine villages and several hamlets of the area.
John Glarebrook, chief of OHR office for the South West BiH, explained
the stake of the return in the area: "by returning to Bosanska
Krupa, they leave behind empty houses in Srebrenica and Bratunac
(Eastern Republika Srpska) areas, that their legal owners will
be able to occupy anew. Each return here affects two families
of life is very precarious there; Ambassadors were invited to
visit shelters, made with composite compressed materials covered
with a concrete slab. People sleep on camp beds and pallets. Last
winter, some families were obliged to return to the houses they
occupied in the eastern part of the RS. Other families received
containers as provisional housing. Despite the lack of space and
privacy, comfort is better.
As far as it concerns the visitors, Louis Michel Mboana, chief
of UNHCR field office in Bihac, said that it was "an encouraging
visit for those who work in the field, but also for the inhabitants
in creating a confident climate and to hasten the return of people
who still hesitate". Glarebrook added "the local population
sees that important people are interested in them".
But as Roger Brawnt, chief of the Banja Luka's Organisation for
Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) office, said: "All
those people are happy to see us today, but tomorrow might be
difficult, because it will be a long time before they notice changes."
Barreira De Sousa explained that "this trip permits us to
take time to meet the International community and Non Governmental
Organisations (NGO's), and to know the situation in these villages.
When I hear about these areas, I will have a more precise picture
of the situation." He added that "the NGO's approach
us and we can provide funds with better knowledge of what they
are for." The idea is to gain ground in helping these villages
and create a nucleus, which will permit us to extend the movement
in areas all around.
He concluded in emphasizing that "SFOR is reducing its budgets,
but I hope that it will not hamper this kind of initiative."
Related links: Humanitarian
Aid, SFOR at