CNN Mission: Peace

Plenty of blame going around
for ravaged Bosnia suburb

roof on fire

March 11, 1996
Web posted at: 9:30 p.m. EST (0230 GMT)

From International Correspondent Jackie Shymanski

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Serbs apparently are turning on each other as they move out of Ilidza, the fourth Sarajevo suburb to be handed over Tuesday to the Muslim-Croat Federation.

As Serbs unwilling to live under Muslim-Croat rule depart, they leave their once-beloved suburb to arsonists and looters.

A chain of blame has emerged to explain the smoldering ruin. Accusations flew along with bullets Monday as the Bosnian Serb police abandoned Ilidza.

The departing Serb mayor blamed peace negotiators for both the destruction and for the reluctance of Serbs to stay in Ilidza.


"The Serbs didn't get special status from the Dayton peace accord. That's caused the ethnic cleansing on this territory," said Mayor Nedeljko Prstojevic.

The mayor didn't blame the Bosnian Serbs, who have turned on each other, setting their neighbors' homes on fire and stealing their goods.

International police put the blame on gangs of Serb thugs, who they say are looting and chasing out the people who want to stay.


An elderly Serb woman begged NATO troops to stay with her, to protect her apartment from arsonists. The troops, who form the next link in the blame chain, said they cannot .

IFOR has stepped up its presence in the suburb in response to growing criticism, but has refused to enforce a curfew or take a tougher stance

"We have a clear military mission ... and the situation remains that we are not here to fill a vacuum caused by the failure of the civil police," said IFOR spokesman Simon Haselock. (136K AIFF sound or 136K WAV sound)

Local authority is gone, replaced by a police force sponsored by the United Nations. But its members have no authority to arrest and do not carry weapons.

Bureaucrats and NATO blame those who signed the peace deal. They say Serbs and Bosnians have failed to implement the part of the accord governing the hand-over of Serb-held suburbs. They say the Serbs have created fear and that the Bosnians haven't done enough to ease it.

That claim is flatly rejected by the last link in the chain, acting Bosnian President Ejup Ganic.

"IFOR is confused on this issue," he said. "I wish they had a more progressive view, just to stop those fires. They have so many soldiers. They could have a soldier in front of every building." (179K AIFF sound or 179K WAV sound)

And the blame chain comes full circle.

Each party to the Dayton peace accord has been more than willing to blame the other, but not one has been willing to accept responsibility for what's gone wrong.

After four years of bitter fighting, a different outcome would have been surprising.

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