Real Deals for Peace: Market Helps Mend Ethnic Rifts

The road to reconciliation in Bosnia may be long and arduous, but for some it starts here - at a makeshift trading post on the Arizona Road. Here on the border between the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation on a recent Sunday, traffic was backed up for a mile as upwards of 4,000 Muslims, Serbs, and Croats flocked to make a deal.

"It's like before the war," says Ilija Dukic, a Serb, as he hawks mufflers to a Muslim customer. "We were all soldiers, some of us right here. But now we must work together to survive. It never matters to whom we are selling as long as we are selling. It gives me hope that we can go back to living together."

At the Arizona Market no one looks at license plates - the marker of one's home and thus, ethnicity. They are only looking for deutche marks. In a sprawling muddy lot, shacks and trucks are lined up pushing everything imaginable: potatoes, diapers, satellite dishes, watches, stoves.

The Arizona Market was born of simple entrepreneurship. In the wake of war, a Muslim saw an opportunity and, feeling safe under the watch of SFOR, put up a burger stand. Others followed. The market now has the feel of a pioneer town. Men hurriedly pound nails into what will soon be new shops.

"What's good about Arizona is that it's a natural creation. In the face of all this planned and programmed reintegration, it just popped up," says an aid worker based in Brcko.

American troops took the market under their wing, and are now planning three more like it. There is already another one in Memici in eastern Bosnia. "Americans, of course, think capitalism can solve all. You won't hate your neighbor if you can make money off them," says Kathleen Weed, a US aid worker.

Critics have suggested that by having the benefits of trade in a no-man's-land, there is little incentive for people to live and work together in the same place. Maj. Chris Riley, SFOR spokesman, disagrees: "Anything that normalizes relations is valuable, and trade is as normal as it gets."

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