International organisations working to help displaced Bosnians return to their pre-war homes – arguably the most important element of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) – have declared 1998 the “year of minority returns”.
Since 28 February when Serbian special police launched a brutal offensive against alleged ethnic Albanian (Kosovar) separatists in Kosovo, events in that ethnically-divided province of rump Yugoslavia have featured prominently on the front pages of newspapers and in television and radio news broadcasts throughout the world.
The fate of the Brcko area, whether it should be in the Federation or Republika Srpska, was considered too contentious to be resolved in the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) and was left to binding arbitration.
To many who followed the Bosnian war from abroad, Sarajevo symbolised Bosnia and Herzegovina’s rich tradition of multi-culturalism and multi-ethnicity.
In Bosnia’s local elections on 13 and 14 September 1997, parties representing displaced Serbs from Croat-held Drvar, Bosansko Grahovo and Glamoc won either a majority or a plurality of council seats in these three municipalities in Canton 10 of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Achieving the ambitious goals of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (DPA) -- forging a unified state out of the shaky Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and resistant and unstable Republika Srpska -- is a complex and difficult undertaking which has not been made easier by the quest for a so-called “exit strategy”.
Prospects for lasting peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina have improved in recent months as a result of a clear shift in approach towards implementation of the peace plan on the part of the international community.
Images that usually first come to mind in relation to the Balkans are of ‘ancient inter-ethnic hatreds’, irrational bloodletting among neighbours, and unpredictable eruptions of senseless violence.
On the night of 2-3 May 1997, some 25 houses were set ablaze in the Croat-controlled municipality of Drvar, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Federation).
Apart from stopping the fighting, silencing the guns and separating forces, the single clearest promise of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) was that Bosnian refugees and internally displaced persons would be able to return home.
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