Politics in March 2000


While this e-newsletter is circulating through the net, there will be only a few days left until the local elections in BiH. At the beginning of March, the OSCE started an election campaign with the motto "Vote for changes," which is directly opposite from the current political powers. The SDA tried to discuss it, but then they allegedly reached an intelligent conclusion - we are the party that offers changes - vote for us. Bosnian wisdom. Bosnian citizens will, for the second time since the Dayton Peace Accords were signed, enter polling stations to choose their representatives for municipal councils and assemblies. The elections will be held in 145 out of 146 Bosnian municipalities, including the Mostar City Council. The only municipality where the elections will not take place is Srebrenica, for which the elections have been scheduled for October 2000... The total number of people registered to vote in the elections is 2.46 million.

They will have the opportunity to choose between 68 political parties, seven coalitions and 18 independent candidates. Of course, it is difficult to give a prognosis about the election results, especially if we are keeping in mind the secret wishes of a great number of the "conscientious" ones. At the same time, UN Mission in BiH chief Robert Barry said that according to the permanent election law rules, it is too late for this year's elections because the Parliament refused to adopt the law in the proposed form. Barry said the OSCE council and the Council for implementing the Dayton Accords will make an estimate according to which the decision on when and will the elections take place will be made in May. Barry also said the OSCE Council is supposed to decide whether the financing of elections in BiH should continue if government bodies are refusing to adopt the election law. According to local diplomats, this year's Parliament elections in BiH might be prolonged because of the above reasons. Anyway, the April elections will happen for sure. Although the results are not certain yet. A few more days and a little more patience...

Case 1. Supplement
The elections campaign is going at full throttle. Television is full of it. I remember the words of the last newsletter, where we said now that Izetbegovic was the Presidency Chair again, not much will change except an increase in the visits of high-ranked people. This turned out to be true.

Madeleine Albright, Stipe Mesic, Robertson, the first lady of the OSCE and a lot more. I must admit that television and the news (being forced or not?) did their best to give complete information and the national TV worked with local independent stations several times. Besides that there were information programs in which local parties could express themselves (and you also saw an empty seat if representatives didn't show up) and general election news, such as the activities of different parties around the country.

National parties went into the election campaign of these local elections with national slogans and in full power. Slogans like "The 10 most difficult years together" from the SDA, for example, ignore the fact that we are dealing with local elections. But maybe you remember the elections in Croatia.(see case 4) The politicians are full of fear. If they do not win these elections it'll be liberty hall. Then the citizens will see it is possible to live as well in other ways, they will start to believe it and at the Parliamentary elections the old politicians will be blown away.



One of the greatest confrontations in March was caused by the Tihomir Blaskic case. Blaskic is a BiH HVO (Croat Council of Defence) general sentenced by The Hague Tribunal to 45 years in prison for crimes against Bosniaks in Central Bosnia. Justified or not?
Is Blaskic guilty or innocent, is the verdict too high ... These are some of the questions asked. Logically, the verdict has caused bitterness among Croat people and their political and religious leadership. HDZ BiH president Bosnian Presidency member Ante Jelavic considers the Blaskic verdict to be a verdict against the Croat people in BiH.
He said it was a message for Croats in BiH "not only that they should not try with ideas of radicalism and secession, but it is also turning Croats away from any idea of national and cultural identity as a constitutional nation in BiH." New Croat Initiative (NHI) president Kresimir Zubak thinks the same way and believes the 45-year sentence was given to a man whose individual responsibility has not been proven. Bosnian Cardinal Vinko Puljic and Bishop Pero Sudar also consider the sentence to be drastic and without grounds. As the bishops say, the sentence confirms doubts in the Tribunal's impartiality and poses the question of the international community's familiarity with the crimes committed against
Bosnian Croats. On the other hand, the Bosniak side is almost completely satisfied with the drastic sentence. Which is mostly understandable - Blaskic was held responsible for killing more 100 Bosniaks in the central Bosnian village of Ahmici. In that case, the revolt is justified. Wise Alija Izetbegovic said about this case - "it is necessary to punish those who committed war crimes against the Bosniaks." But, if Izetbegovic wants his wish to become a reality he will have to make an effort to equally punish those Bosniaks who committed war crimes against the Serbs and the Croats. There are almost no comments from the Serbs. There is a rule that if two tribes in Bosnia and Herzegovina are in conflict, the third one observes and enjoys it. But in this case, the enjoyment is questionable. The Hague Tribunal is getting ready to reach verdicts for some Serb generals who are being processed there. Is it fear that severe punishing will continue? There will be comments in that case. And more than necessary.
The fourth side, which is very important in the Bosnian story, the USA, welcomes Blaskic's punishment. According to a State Department spokesman, the United States believes that if reconciliation is to be accomplished and the Balkan region wants to join European institutions, moves like this are inevitable. Right after the verdict was announced, protests began in several Bosnian towns where Croats are a majority.
These protests cannot change a lot, in essence. On the contrary, the Dario Kordic trial is underway; another one from the HVO Central Bosnia group, and the other day Mladen Naletilic Tula was extradited to The Hague from Zagreb.

Case 2; supplement
When I read this, something keeps going through my mind. I had this enormous luck that my girlfriend and I could spend a few weeks on holiday outside of Europe. We went to Cape Town and visited a friend we met in Sarajevo last year.
In South Africa there was a bitter struggle against apartheid. A lot is known about that, a lot is not. As we probably know, war is mostly confusion, followed by violence that remains unpunished.
Finally a Commission of Truth was formed and led by Desmond Tutu (remember that funny clown, also Archischop of South Africa?). This commission had one premise: if you speak the truth, if you answer all the questions, you will go free.
The idea was that a massive detention of those who are guilty (while all victims of a system) without the story of truth would not help reconciliation.
The results were often very emotional confessions of guilt (for example) of secret service agents, who said they killed all men in a village who were supposed to be ANC warriors. But they had by accident taken the wrong village. Later, as a practical result of the Commission of Truth, these agents went to the village and told the peole that it was them who slaughtered their family 10 years ago, and they asked for mercy, which they got from the village people. That is reconciliation, although it is very difficult to achieve.

In my opinion the barren actions of The Hague Tribunal, the hardly understandable way it funtions, the influence of individual countries on the Tribunal, the technical language used by judges and lawyers and the denials of the suspects all form a starting point for more indignation, confusion and discord for all persons involved. In this way reconciliation never can be achieved.
I met a black man in South Africa, Owen, and he had been in Sarajevo and he asked me.... "Bosnia? ... Is that war a result of the cold war?" I said; "Yes, I'm afraid it is". And he said : "Oh... I'm sorry man. We have killed the cold war together with Apartheid, but I'm sorry for you, man."

Maybe if we, in the west, do not want to learn from East Europe, maybe we should try to learn something from Africa.


At the beginning of March 2000, Brcko was officially proclaimed a district.
It was directed by Madeleine Albright, Wolfgang Petritsch and Robert Farrand, with the great actors Ante Jelavic, Zivko Radisic and Alija Izetbegovic. This act solved the future of a town which had become a synonym for the confrontation of two people, two entities and hundreds of interests - national and individual, in postwar Bosnia. During the war, Brcko was under Republic of Srpska Army control. After the war the town was under the territorial authority of Republic of Srpska. For all that time, both sides were more than interested in getting Brcko "only for themselves." The Bosniaks wanted it because of the exit to the Sava River and the Serbs because the town is a corridor connecting two parts of the RS. Of course, Brcko was a town of a strategic interest. Still, the solution has traditionally offered (imposed?) a compromise - the only possible solution.
As the official statement said, Brcko will belong both to the Federation and the Republic of Srpska in the future - same as to all the people living in BiH. It could be said that almost everyone is satisfied with the solution - regardless of small Serb demonstrations that took place in the town on the proclamation day. Serbs are happy because the town did not go to "balijas" and Bosniaks satisfied because it did not go to "chetniks." The Croats who withdrew from Posavina in summer 1992 on Tudjman's order are satisfied too. And they announced their return to the Brcko District region.
Albright and the rest of the diplomat crew promise that Brcko is the future of all of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Brcko - a synonym for the joint life that is supposed to happen. I hope that we will not have to wait for the future (that the THREE LEADERS are telling us about) as long as Vladimir and Estrogen had to wait for Godot. A day after the proclamation of the Brcko District, Albright met with RS Prime Minister Milorad Dodik and Croat and Bosnian Foreign Ministers Tonin Picula and Jadranko Prlic in Banja Luka. If we are to trust them, the Banja Luka meeting was a step towards the future they like to talk about so much. Croatia and the RS signed a statement confirming the right to a two-way return of refugees. They also announced that the state agreement between Zagreb and Sarajevo will be signed in three months, and it will precisely state the return of all Serb refugees from Croatia and Croat refugees from the Republic of Srpska. This should increase the development of the peace process and the implementation of the Dayton Accords.
After that Albright left the Balkans, leaving us many diplomatic solutions that are supposed to give us new life. Also the fact that, instead of Greater Serbia, Greater Croatia and Islam Bosnia that we heard about at the beginning of the 90s, today we have Greater America. So, let's enjoy it!


New Croatian President Stipe Mesic was on a two-day visit to Sarajevo at the end of March. What seemed to be just another protocol visit had a greater significance for the relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mesic explained the goals of his visit in Oslobodjenje, a Sarajevo daily paper: "We must cooperate with Bosnia and Herzegovina and that is the meaning of my visit to Sarajevo. By this we are also showing that it is over with interfering with Bosnian internal relations. For instance, we cannot pay an army in another country, and especially we cannot do it non-transparently as was the case before. Instead of agreeing with the Croats only, whatever is agreed on in the future will be so on the level of two countries - Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina."

How bad the relations between the two countries were until now could shown by the fact that former Croatian President Franjo Tudjman did not have even one official visit to BiH between the end of the war and his death (Izetbegovic replied accordingly - by not going to Tudjman's funeral). In the meantime, the problems between the two countries grew bigger, and no one bothered to try to solve them. Even in the election campaign, Stipe Mesic announced that there would be changes in the two countries' relations: "I think that the relations now are much different and better, and it is up to all of us to send these positive messages that we want cooperation and that we can cooperate and solve
all open matters." During his stay in the Bosnian capital, Mesic met with the Bosnian Presidency members, representatives of the Federation of BiH, representatives of local students and Bosnian Catholic church authorities. After putting flowers on one of the war victims' monument, Mesic enjoyed some free activities. That's how it goes - have some pie and baklava and push it down with Sarajevo beer (buy domestic). The entire visit had an informal character - without the tensions and pressures that used to be typical for these countries' relations. This is a new perspective of the relations, according to many. And it had better be so!