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5. The former Yugoslavia: the war and the peace process




The signing in Paris on 14 December 1995 of the Dayton Agreement ending the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and earlier of an agreement on Croatia, was the culmination of the largest military operation in NATO's history, great humanitarian tragedy and enormous population displacement. On some estimates, 250 000 had died and there were 2.7 million refugees and displaced persons in Bosnia - one-third of the pre-war population. It was military developments - Croatian military success in Serb-held areas of the country and extensive use of force by NATO - which ultimately brought the war towards an end, raising questions about what the 'peace process' had actually achieved and whether it had all along been properly conceived.

The deployment of 60 000 NATO ground troops, including a sizeable US contingent, meant that the country could look forward to a suspension of warring for 12 months, after which the multinational military Implementation Force (IFOR) is scheduled to withdraw. General war-weariness and the cantonment of heavy weapons should reinforce this.

Whether the cease-fire provides the basis for a more lasting peace and whether the Dayton accord can initiate a process of reconciliation and reintegration, not only in Bosnia and Herzegovina but also in neighbouring Croatia, Serbia, especially vis-à-vis Kosovo, and Macedonia, are open questions. In any war-ravaged nation the obstacles to peace-building are considerable. In Bosnia and Herzegovina neither side has won a decisive victory and neither is satisfied with the status quo. Historically such conditions have been a prescription for renewed warring. Dayton entrenched rather than resolved the fundamental causes of the conflict, most importantly the territorial division of the country. By enshrining partition and by allowing for the establishment of two states within a state and the maintenance of two separate armies, it makes the task of reintegration more difficult. The requirements for consensus that govern the main political organs will allow intransigent parties to thwart the effective functioning of the national parliament. A similar crisis contributed to the collapse of the Yugoslav Federation and the build-up to war.

Effective partition will also make it difficult to resettle the refugees and displaced persons. Despite the formal right of return these people enjoy, in practice many will be deterred by the prospect of having to cross lines of separation into 'hostile' territory in order to go home. Nor can they be expected to wish to return to areas that have been ethnically cleansed and where personal security is 'guaranteed' by local police forces who may have carried out the cleansing in the first place.

Time, aid and the flow of commerce and information may work to erode the barrier of partition. Another key to a lasting peace will be the effectiveness of the International Tribunal in The Hague. Any significant return of refugees would seem unlikely unless individuals responsible for war crimes are brought to justice. It seems likely that the two most directly responsible for the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the presidents of Serbia and Croatia, Slobodan Milosevic and Franjo Tudjman, will escape prosecution because the international community needs their cooperation.

The peace agreement is only a partial solution. The right of return of refugees does not extend to the tens of thousands of Croatian Serbs who fled the Krajina region in the face of last year's offensives. Kosovo's Albanian population continue to suffer violations of human rights on a systematic basis. The relaxation of the UN arms embargo may have the effect of levelling the playing-field and thus inhibiting conflict, or it may embolden the strengthened Bosnian Muslim forces to restart the war. The treatment of the Serb minority in Croatia raised fresh concern over that country's democratic credentials, and Serbia's purportedly constructive role in Bosnia and Herzegovina was belied by its continued support for the Bosnian Serbs and by the failure to take any steps towards settling the problem in Kosovo, where, it is often argued, the wars of Yugoslav secession actually began.


Appendix 5A. The Dayton Peace Agreement

Appendix 5A reproduces the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and selections from the Annexes.