Sarajevans Try to Shift Peace Pact Into Fact
SARAJEVO, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA — THE fear and mistrust that divided Sarajevo in war has yet to ease, despite eloquent speeches from politicians that the peace agreement initialed in Dayton, Ohio, last week will unite the Bosnian capital.
Kept apart for more than 3-1/2 years, both Serbs and Muslims are pondering what it will feel like to be on the "other" side of the barricades, return to hastily abandoned apartments, and meet surviving neighbors who stayed behind.
The Dayton deal divides Bosnia almost in half, with 51 percent of the country going to a Muslim-Croat federation and 49 percent to the Serbs. But the agreement calls for a unified Sarajevo within the Muslim-Croat federation.
This prospect has been met in Sarajevo suburbs controlled by Serbs with daily demonstrations against integration and calls by Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic for renegotiation.
And in Muslim-controlled areas of the capital, there is skepticism at the prospects for a lasting peace.
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic yesterday reinforced Serb opposition to a unified Sarajevo, calling for the "renegotiation or clarification" of the peace deal. Bosnia's Serbs agreed to have Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic negotiate on their behalf in Dayton.
Included in the agreement Mr. Milosevic initialed is an obligation for all parties to cooperate with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Mr. Karadzic and Army Gen. Ratko Mladic have been indicted for war crimes by the tribunal.
But Karadzic warned in a BBC television interview yesterday that the reunification of Sarajevo would result in a "new Beirut in Europe. It is going to bleed for decades," he said. "It is going to be very bad, maybe the worst place in Europe."
Much to forgive and forget
During the siege of Muslim areas of the city, Bosnian Serb forces dropped more than half a million mortar and artillery shells on Sarajevo, and snipers killed many. With more than 10,000 dead here alone, there is a reluctant readiness to forgive, but not to forget.
"Of course we want to live together, but people have learned to hate each other," says Merisha, a Bosnian relief worker. "I am afraid that even when the city is united, there will be acts of revenge."
City streets are blocked by snow-encrusted walls of crushed vehicles - used also as sniper shields - by rows of antitank barricades, and in places by the Miljaska River.
But divisions are as deeply entrenched in survivors' minds.
"We need peace, and we have so many connections with the other side that we can't be divided," says Atila, a teenage Muslim musician. "But I am afraid of war criminals walking around on this side. I don't want to live, to drink, or to walk with them. I don't want to have to hurt them," he says.
He also offers one of the few positive assessments of the new agreement and knows who to blame for the war: "The peace has to work out, because there is a big wish to have it from the people of all three sides. Those politicians who wanted us divided were not hungry during the whole war or they didn't lose anyone from their families."
But long used to conflict - and unwilling to once again raise false hopes - most Bosnians are exercising a well-practiced pessimism.
One young Muslim mother, whose husband is an officer in the government Army, counts herself among Bosnia's "Young Turks." Aida's home is along the city's front line in the suburb of Dobrinja. The broken glass windows were long ago replaced by translucent plastic; the rooms on one side - facing the Serb snipers - were once prone to the lethal "whack" of bullets.
Each piece of furniture seems to have been hit, one round splintering the armrest of this chair, another lodging in a china cabinet wall.
"The only solution is military, because the Serbs know only force," Aida says. "They do not know pencil and paper."
Both sides want more
The peace deal divides Bosnia almost in half in a mathematical creation that few Bosnians will be able to live with, Aida says. The Serbs want more - all that they conquered. And the Muslims want more, too, all that they once had.
"In my opinion, there will be more fighting," she adds. "It's very hard to forget. We are lucky to be alive, but for those who lost their husbands, their sons, their brothers, they will never forget."
UN officials say that the return of refugees to their homes will be extremely difficult. Some refugees, "ethnically cleansed" from their home areas by Serbs, Croats, and Muslims, have been moved into front-line areas to aid resistance, they say. The UN is already reporting the burning and looting by Croat militias of the northwestern Bosnian town of Mrkonic Grad, which is due to be handed over to the Serbs. "At the moment, there are very few encouraging signals," says Kris Janowski, UN High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman . "Everything is basically ... reinforcing the existing result of 3-1/2 years of ethnic cleansing."