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Italian press tour to see conditions in Zepa

By CPO Tim Adams
First published in
SFOR Informer #89, June 7, 2000

Zepa - The "safe zone" of Zepa was turned into a killing zone when it was over-run just five days after the biggest massacre since World War II occurred nearby in Srebrenica. So it is perhaps little wonder that DPRE's (Displaced Persons and Refugees) have been slow to return to Zepa. But that is all starting to change now that SFOR has provided a safe and secure environment and assistance in rebuilding the town. To demonstrate that things are changing and to encourage more returns, the Italian Battle Group invited members of the press to join them on a tour of Zepa and nearby Rogatica on May 24 to observe people beginning to rebuild their communities.

Journalists and cameramen from two television stations and one international news agency joined the Italian Battle Group Commander, Col. Fausto Macor and members of his staff on two Italian AB 205 helicopters for the flight into Zepa. The media entourage was briefed in the old town centre on the ways the Italian Battle Group have conducted operations to insure safety and provide assistance to early returnees. Several roofs have been restored on some buildings already and more building materials were stockpiled near the structures they are intended for.

"We want to help these people to be confident that there can be a future here, a better future," said Italian Capt. Alessandro Cottone. He said his goal for the media day was, "to show the biggest media representatives of the Federation that deep in the Republic of Srpska things are going well."

Members of the media photographed and interviewed families cleaning their homes and the local medical doctor who is currently treating people under a makeshift awning near his tent. For the moment, the Doctor keeps his medications and anti-snake venom cool and fresh in a container immersed in cold spring water. That will change as electrical power is restored and more buildings are completed. The Mayor of Zepa led the group on a tour past vestiges of family dwellings, a destroyed school, and a burned out distillery that was once the pride of the town and highly regarded throughout the region. They walked past overgrown orchards and gardens and visited the centuries-old, historic bridge that still stands at the edge of town.

Next, the group re-boarded the helicopters for the flight into Rogatica where they toured the kindergarten that SFOR Italian soldiers are supporting. The Italian Company provides them bread everyday and a full Italian meal one-day a week. Then just before the media group headed back to Sarajevo, they watched Italian soldiers deliver over 100 boxes of clothes and toys donated by the people of Bolzano, Italy to the kindergarten.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Italy
SFOR at Work