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Saturday, December 20, 1997 Published at 08:29 GMT


Two years after Dayton

Two years ago the Dayton Peace Accord was signed, ending the four-year war between Serbs, Croats and Muslims in Bosnia. The country was divided into two separate entities - the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb Republic.

Elections have since been held. But both sides remain fiercely nationalist in their determination to protect their own interests. The Muslim-Croat federation with its capital in Sarajevo, wants to bring back a unified country. But the Serb Republic, also known as Republika Srpska, is bent on maintaining partition.

[ image: Thousands of Muslims have homes in Serb-held land]
Thousands of Muslims have homes in Serb-held land
Meanwhile, the repatriation of refugees promised by Dayton has been slow. Around 110,000 refugees will have been repatriated in 1997, out of more than 1.2 million who fled.

The refugees who have been able to return were mostly going back to areas where they form an ethnic majority. The biggest problem lies with those who are too scared to return to an area where they would be a minority.

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have homes in Serb-held land. The Dayton agreement gives them the right to go back. But two years on, the Serb authorities still withhold it.

[ image: The dispossessed salvage bricks to sell fom the ruins of Sarajevo]
The dispossessed salvage bricks to sell fom the ruins of Sarajevo
A BBC correspondent in Sarajevo, Allan Little, visited Fatwa and her two sisters, who all lost their husbands and their sons in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in which 7,000 Muslim men and boys were killed. They now live in Sarajevo.

"We want to go back to our own place. We can't live here. If this can't be resolved peacefully we'll have to have another war. We'll have to because where can we live?" said Fatwa.

"I would love to go home but Karadzic's people will not let us. It's not just me, it's all of us. They would kill us if we tried to return," said another Sarajevo resident.

[ image: The Bosnian army had fewer than 10 tanks during the war: now it has hundreds]
The Bosnian army had fewer than 10 tanks during the war: now it has hundreds
Meanwhile, the Bosnian army is busy rearming, determined never again to be the target of ethnic cleansing.

The rearmament programme is called "train and equip". It is initiated and driven by the United States.

The US army, which has just annouced its intention to remain in Bosnia beyond the previously agreed withdrawal date, says that within three years it will take the Bosnians up to Nato standard both technically and operationally.

Across the line - in Republika Srpska

Meanwhile, across the "invisible Berlin Wall" or "Zone of Separation" - the boundary created by Dayton that people dare not cross - the Bosnian Serbs are fighting to maintain partition.

[ image: BBC correspondent Alan Little at
BBC correspondent Alan Little at "the invisible Berlin wall"
Zoran Kos lives on the Serb side, fought for the Bosnians and lost a leg in battle. For him, Dayton is not about right of return, but about the right of the Serbs to have their own state in Bosnia.

"America gave us Republika Srpska. We have our army, our police and our schools. We'll keep building up our state in the spirit of Dayton. Ninety nine percent of refugees will never go home because of the blood shed. Blood is a big thing," he says.

But the Bosnian Serbs are themselves split. They are caught in a stalemate between the hardline nationalism of Radavan Karadzic's party with headquarters in Pale, and the more outward-looking attitude of Biljana Plavsic, based in Banja Luka.

The two-day conference in Bonn earlier this week on the peace implementation process has brought hope to some. The international community's High Representative to Bosnia-Hercegovina, Carlos Westendorp, has described it as a turning-point in building a unified Bosnian state.

But Alan Little is less optimistic:

"Dayton ended the war but it did not end the conflict. One side still aspires to partition Bosnia, the other to reunite it. And as the Bosnians rearm, the military balance tips decisively their way."

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