By 1st Lt. Philippe Mouret
First published in
SFOR Informer#129, December 26, 2001
Tuesday, Dec. 11, Werner Blatter, Mission Chief
in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR), and Maj. Gen. François de Goësbriand,
deputy commander of SFOR (DCOMSFOR), visited Bosko Milic, the
mayor of Zvornik. This was to appraise the situation for the Displaced
Persons (DPs) and Returnees in the area.
Zvornik - The town is located in Republika Srpska
(RS), 75 kilometres northeast of Sarajevo, on the left bank of
the Drina River. Two bridges connect it directly with the Federal
Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). The city, one of the oldest in BiH,
is situated on an important crossroads. It links Sarajevo to Belgrade
(FRY), and Srebrenica with Tuzla. From time immemorial this was
a place of exchange and of trade, but also of confrontation. The
region was hotly contested during the war. The town council estimates
that the Zvornik municipality has 55,000 inhabitants, of whom
25,000 are DPs.
A low PLIP ratio
Until a while ago, the area was considered a "black spot."
The Property Law Implementation Plan (PLIP) was not being applied;
returns were near non-existent and there were sharp tensions between
Bosnian-Serbs, who are in the majority, and Bosniacs. Since the
appointment of Angelina Tomic as Zvornik local office chief of
the RS Municipal Office for Refugees ("Opstinsko Ministarstva
za Izbjeglice," OMI), PLIP enforcement has improved. The
implementation ratio increased from 3.37 to 15 percent between
January and November 2001. That is to say a total of 885 buildings
were repossessed out of the 5,897 submitted. However, this rate
is very low, compared to 27 percent over the whole of the RS and
46 percent in Federation. According to Sarah Rattray, UNHCR satellite
office head, this is due to OMI's lack of resources, as well as
Banja Luka's lack of support. This is because the city does not
have enough alternative accommodation.
Returnees flow both ways
In Kula Grad, 1.5 kilometres from Zvornik, returns began in February
2000. There, 250 houses were destroyed, all belonging to Bosniacs.
Today, 84 houses have been rebuilt, work is ongoing, and 120 families
have returned. Last year, minor incidents occurred, so SFOR maintains
a strong presence.
In Zvornik City, 191 Bosniac houses were destroyed and 209 are
occupied by Bosnian-Serbs DPs coming from the northern half of
the Federation: Kakanj, Banovici, Konjic or Travnik. Eighteen
houses have been pledged and the reconstruction of 10 houses will
start this month. Thirty families have returned. Here again, security
problems have appeared. In January 2001, some returnees' houses
were shot at.
In Divic, at few kilometres upstream from Zvornik on the Drina
River, there were 252 Bosniac homes before the war. Thirty are
under reconstruction. The situation is very tense on the site
because Bosniac returnees are close to Bosnian-Serbs coming from
Visoko, Sarajevo or Banovici. From August 2000, at the time of
the first returns, problems appeared. One year later, the evictions
of DPs, belonging to Bosnian-Serb hard-liner factions, provoked
demonstrations and riots. SFOR now gives specific attention to
this area. The effort is focused on organising returns in two
ways: to Divic, for Bosniac DPs, who used to live there before
the war and to Banovici, Zavidovic and Sarajevo Canton, for Bosnian-Serb
DPs who moved here during the conflict.
Finnish Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) is very active in
the area. Eight kilometres of roads have been reconstructed as
well as 60 houses in Zeljova-Banovici, and eight homes in Vracevac-Zavidovici.
This accommodation is intended for 80 Bosnian-Serb DP families
waiting in Divic, Zvornik and Bijelina (RS) today. The spaces
that they are going to release will allow the accommodation of
Bosniac DPs still in the Federation.
The new mayor of Zvornik helped a lot to improve the situation.
Milic is more moderate than his predecessor was. During the meeting
with the town councillor, Blatter stressed the importance of co-operation
between the Zvornik municipality and the OMI. He explained: "Those
returns and the PLIP implementation will change the attitude of
the donors and it will be easier to mobilise international funding
for the economic development of Zvornik Municipality."
Milic was in complete agreement with him: "The municipality
is here to assist Returnees [
] I hope to change peoples
opinion about Zvornik."
Later, de Goësbriand underlined that SFOR has the situation
well in hand and that; "
the eviction of a former police
chief [a week before the visit] greatly improved the situation."
Blatter and DCOMSFOR hope to see an improvement during the Ambassadors'
Tour, next April.
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