CIMIC 'Ó la franšaise'

Maj. Christophe Fix
First published in
SFOR Informer#156, January 23, 2003

During the last few months, the activities of the French CIMIC team mainly focused on the area of Nevesinje, and in particular towards Bosnian-Serb Displaced Persons (DPs). Conducted in close co-operation with military activities in the field, CIMIC (Civil-Military Co-operation) is supporting the actions of the Spanish French Battle Group (SPFR BG) in its new area of responsibility.

Nevesinje - Next summer, during the driest months, 50 inhabitants from Luka, a small village located 20 km north of Nevesinje, won't suffer from any more droughts. Moreover, for the first time in their life, they will enjoy running water. The story began when residents led by Miro Glogovac, a retired technology teacher, decided to take advantage of a natural spring spurting just at the bottom of a rocky barrier, two kilometers northeast from the hamlet.
Running water
Work first began in September 2002. One 8m high and 80m3 intermediary concrete cistern was built up and directly linked to the spring with water pipes. All inhabitants including the elderly took part in the working with shovels and picks, tractors and explosives as well. "Each family living in Luka gave 300 KM for this project. Now I hope that young people will decide to remain in the village instead of leaving for foreign countries," said Zivko Zerajic, 74 years old.
By the end of November, when short of tools, water pipes and joints, residents requested the support of the (then) French Battle Group CIMIC team. The request was accepted Nov. 11 and the materials were delivered two weeks after.
"Luka's inhabitants began to work by themselves and asked only for our help when facing a problem they obviously couldn't solve. The more the local people prove they don't comply with a 'wait and see' policy, the more we are disposed to offer them our support and our experience," said Maj. Francis Rigotti, Chief of the FR CIMIC team, SPFR BG.
Promote self initiative
This team is only eleven personnel strong: four are officers, two NCOs, two soldiers and three civilian interpreters. Since June 2002, they received and handled on average of about 15 requests per month. More than 90 files have been already opened, 30 are under examination and 45 have already been completed, less than half of them with military assets and manpower.
"Missions are always very different one from another, going from removing rubbles, repairing houses or simply delivering water. Specific works are generally performed by civilian companies under our monitoring, for we must act as the catalysts of the regional economic start up and not be the single actors," stated Maj. Rigotti.
"Last year, we repaired six houses belonging to returnees but each time we voluntarily limited our action in renovating just two or three rooms so as to restore sufficient and satisfactory life conditions and to prompt these families to pursue the work by themselves," he added.
Free medical assistance
Free medical assistance has also regularly been carried out in the DP camps of Nevesinje and Trusina in close relationship with the FR CIMIC team. "After an initial paramedical or medical check-up, the main intent was to readjust medical treatments in favor of very often old destitute persons and try to ensure every three weeks an individual medical follow-up," explained Doctor Hencoumar Sincan.
He conducted his first mission in Nevesinje on Aug. 20, 2002. On the whole, he took part in 20 others missions from September to December, holding more than 200 consultations. "This was my first experience of free medical assistance and it was so gratifying, humanly speaking, that I will never forget it," underlined Dr Sincan.
Since Dec. 1, 2002, the Spanish CIMIC team gathered with the French team in the same compound in Mostar-Europa Base. Though supported by separate international and national funds and therefore acting independently, the new geographical co-location as well as the new task organization of the combined BG, will further develop and strengthen CIMIC cooperation between both countries for 2003.

Related links: CIMIC
Humanitarian Aid
Nations of SFOR: France

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Photos: Courtesy of SPFR BG

French Capt. (Doctor) Hencoumar Sincan (r.) conducted his first mission with the Logistic Battalion's medical team in Nevesinje on Aug. 20, 2002.

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French Capt. (Doctor) Hencoumar Sincan took part in more than 20 missions, holding more than 200 consultations. Here, he greets an old patient arriving by bus.

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Many metres of supply pipes are stored: next summer, during the driest months, the inhabitants of Luka won't suffer any more from drought.