Bosnian war from An Anthropological point of view: Assessing the impacts on its people over the last decade Essay

Second World War to 1991

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            At the height of the Second World War, a raging campaign by opposing armed factions proclaiming allegiance to distinct ethnic groups further divided Yugoslavia. Aiming at both the rival groups and the Nazi occupiers, the armed conflict eventually took the lives of almost 1 million Yugoslavs as Croatian fascists, Serb Chetniks and Communist-led Partisans among others were the ones mostly held responsible for the mass killings. With Allied support, the Partisans eventually claimed victory towards the end of the war that led to the one-party socialist scheme of the country’s political system under the leadership of Josip Broz (Dragnich, 1993).

            Eventually, the nation turned into instability as remaining authorities sought to seize power and control (Ramet, 2005). The depletion of the remaining resources of the nation also contributed to the squabble in the administrative ranks as financial and natural reserves brought the power-enabled individuals into competition over the distribution of the resources among the republics (Hall, 1995). As the country halted to a standstill bringing the entire nation into political and economic degeneration, the end of Communism was imminent (Benson, 2006). With its consequent folding in the 1980s, Communism’s decline prompted the entire population to seek measures that will offer assurance of economic and political steadiness amidst the post-Cold War scenario (Sell, 2003).

            Instead of promoting economic and political schemes that will place the country back to solid ground, Serb and Croat extremists advanced ethnic nationalism in the face of national crisis (Velikonja, 2003). Acquiring the sentiment of the Serbs by pandering to their ethnic concerns, Slobodan Milosevic eventually rose to power and took control of both the mass media and party apparatus. Nevertheless, Milosevic’s real motive hidden behind his agenda of addressing Serb national sentiment was to maintain his strong political and administrative functions and influence over the country.

            Initiating campaigns against the Albanian Kosovars, Milosevic turned towards repressing the autonomy of Kosovo thus making a hero-image in him among the Serb nationalists (Privitera, 2004). Although Milosevic gained the support of the Serbs in almost all parts of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenian, Croatian and Bosnian non-Communist governments began to appeal for their independence as he sought control over the federal government through his repressive measures. The response of the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) towards these claims for independence materialized through brutal attacks aided in no small way by the Serb nationalist armed units in Bosnia and Croatia (Mestrovic, Letica, & Goreta, 1993).

            As the JNA remained under the command of Milosevic throughout the wars in Croatia and Bosnia in 1991 and 1992 respectively, Belgrade and Zagreb fell under the control of the Serb nationalists. Consequently, Croatia put forward efforts of countering Milosevic’s idea of a Greater Serbia by voting to break away from Yugoslavia in 1991 amidst sharing responsibility in inciting ethnic tensions. On the other hand, Bosnia’s Croats and Muslims alike also appealed for independence through referendum in March of 1992. Prompted by false propaganda, the Bosnians Serbs, having been installed the image of Muslims as extreme fundamentalists, resorted to supporting the plot of establishing a Greater Serbia.

            One of the primary measures utilized both by the JNA and by Bosnian Serbs was ethnic cleansing through violent means. The fact that the Bosnian Serbs were scattered throughout Bosnian territory alongside Muslims and Croats was enough to further fan an ethnic and national bloodbath.

            Sarajevo suffered from food and utilities shortage as well as from communication breakdown after Bosnian Serbs began their siege of the country on April 1992. For three years more than 12,000 Sarajevans were killed, 1,500 of whom are children, as the citizens of Sarajevo went about their lives seeking employment amidst the monumental threats to their lives. For the most part, Bosnian Serb nationalists in Bosnia along with the JNA continued with the “ethnic cleansing” by terrorizing and putting off non-Serbs away from the territory through extremely violent and deadly measures (Horowitz, 2005). Part of these includes the torture, rape, detention, violent deportation, and summary execution of thousands. In fact, rape was committed for severing family and community ties (Weine, 1999).

            In the course of the Serbian attempt to relinquish the country of its Bosnian inhabitants, the country’s annihilation reflected massive changes in Bosnia. Even in the face of an overtly grotesque horror, the international commune was short in addressing the Bosnian conflict.

United Nations and its role in the Bosnian conflict

            Even if the United Nations had already installed the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) troops within the borders of Sarajevo upon the onset of the conflict, the UN was still unable to put a lasting end on the massive deaths the citizens of Bosnia. This seriously smeared the functionality as well as the credibility of the UN as it was about to approach its anniversary in 1995. The efforts of the UN forces in establishing their mere presence across Croatia to Bosnia did not, however, led to what they prophesized as the deterrence to the armed conflicts. As Serb artillery flooded Sarajevo in April 1992, the UN eventually retrieved their armed forces from the region in the hopes of sustaining fewer injuries on their units. The thought that there was no peace to maintain shrouded the UN as the international confederation merely left behind a relatively few number of lightly equipped peacekeeping forces in its attempt of at least putting off Serbian nationalists’ assaults (Hendrickson, 2006).

            The United Nations decided to engage in a deal with the Serbian forces to gain manipulation of the airport in Sarajevo as the worsening conflict turned itself into a humanitarian nightmare. Quite on the contrary, what actually resulted from the deal was the mere granting of UN humanitarian flights that remained under de facto Serb control. Serb liaison officers positioned at the premises of the airport still had to authorize all aid flights as well as the transportation of personnel.

            Within the course of the succeeding three years, the airport ostensibly served as the point where humanitarian missions are to commence only to become a killing field in the end. Casualties dramatically rose in the region as sniper shots exterminated the lives of Bosnian citizens who attempted to flee Sarajevo across the airport tarmac. One of the most grotesque events revolving around the killings in the airport was the direct shooting of the Bosnian Deputy Prime Minister by Serb nationalists.

            Although the UN failed in providing the needed security to ensure the safety of the hundreds of lives of Croats and Muslims in the region, it nevertheless sought to fulfill its remaining functionalities as part of its due responsibility. The investigation on genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the former Yugoslavia commenced along with the installation of the International Criminal Tribunal in February 1993 by the UN Security Council after the UN took its obligations seriously as compared to the times when the Bosnian conflict was yet being initially fanned into wildfire.

NATO in the Serbian conflict

            The North Atlantic Treaty Organization also took a pivotal role in the setting of the Bosnian conflict. After the Serbs took control of Sarajevo in the summer of 1993, NATO posed a vague threat to those who will attempt at derailing the series of humanitarian aids and attacking the UN forces in Sarajevo. Eventually, the Bosnian Serbs themselves occupying Sarajevo ended the apparent threat they directly point to the city (Larson, 2004). In February 1994, the NATO allies along with the US forces released an ultimatum to Serbian armed units to withdraw their armaments from around Sarajevo after the Serbs shelled the Markala marketplace with heavy artillery. Eventually, the Bosnian Serbs declined from further attacks on Sarajevo after NATO posed threats of air attack thus leading to the proclamation of a heavy weapons exclusion zone around the city.

            On the other hand, these instances of threats posed by NATO with its line of allies is seen as an attempt to further secure the city of Sarajevo from being further exploited by the Serbian militia. One fundamental reason to this is that the threats minimize the chances of the Serbs from renewing their military resources by limiting their mobility within the premises of the city (Stromseth, Wippman, & Brooks, 2006). The constant imposition of threats thereby strategically slimmed down the chances of the Serbs from redirecting the strategic positioning of the troops of NATO around the city for the resulting constraint in the movement of the Serbian forces made ample room for the NATO forces to situate themselves to their advantage (Corwin, 1999).

            In due course, NATO was at least able to freeze the Serbs and to subliminally dictate them towards peace negotiations. After the Serbs relinquished the territory of Sarajevo, the UN was able to secure occupation of the strategic area thus preventing the Muslims of the Bosnian government from gaining command of the relinquished city.

The Dayton Agreement

            In November 1995, a peace agreement was arrived at in resolving the ethnic conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As the accords were settled in Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, the Dayton Agreement was eventually signed in Paris by December 14 of the same year, thus placing a halt to the three and a half year long dispute in the former Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia. The Dayton Agreement, for the most part, is the attempt of the international community in putting a permanent barrier between the warring ethnic and, to a certain extent, religious groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bose, 2002).

            Several events eventually gave rise to the initiation of the negotiations. Among these were the military assault on the Republika Srpska by the armed forces of the Bosnia and Croatia, the earlier peace efforts and settlements that came short in meeting the desired ends, and the Croatian military’s Operation Storm in August 1995 and its consequent events. Moreover, the agreement also came into light following the bombardment of the Bosnian Serb armed forces and the condemnations thrown against the prominent government heads and the main military of the Bosnian Serbs before the presence of the International Criminal Tribune for the former Yugoslavia or ICTY (Bell, 2005).

            After the leaders of the three sides agreed to attend the negotiations after intense pressure from the international community, especially Russia and America, the conference was eventually participated chiefly by Croatian President Franjo Tu?man, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovi? alongside Bosnian Foreign Minister Muhamed Sacirbey, and Serbian President Slobodan Miloševi? who stood in for the interests of the Bosnian Serbs because of the absence of Karadzic. Comprising the panel of negotiators in the agreement were Richard Holbrooke with the presence of two Co-Chairmen composed of European Union Special Representative Carl Bildt and Igor Ivanov, the First Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia. Colonel Arundell David Leakey representing the UK military and General Wesley Clark from the US delegation also played significant parts in the negotiations process.

            Eventually, the agreements made in Daytona were formally signed in Paris, France in November of the same year. Among those who signed were German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, French President Jacques Chirac, US President Bill Clinton, and UK Prime Minister John Major. The formalized negotiations paved the way for the present governmental structure as well as the current political divisions of Herzegovina and Bosnia. It also mandated a broad variety of international organizations to assess the status of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to enforce the mandates provided in the Dayton Agreement. The military sections of the settlement were implemented by the IFOR or the Implementation Forces led by NATO that were ultimately deployed in the two areas on the closing days of 1995.

            The Dayton Agreement, though it affirms Sarajevo as the capital of Bosnia, apparently cuts Bosnia across into two ethnical and autonomous parts with a demilitarized zone between. About 49% of Bosnian territory was placed under the helm of the Serbs that is translated as a form of reward for the Serbs unrestrained hostility and genocide, while the remaining 51% of the national territory were granted to the Bosnians (Stoett, 2006). The latter portion was an uneasy union between Croats and Bosnian Muslims called the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Along with this separation is the acquisition of each entity of a government of its own as well as military and police units although a central government is mandated to be in charge of both foreign and banking policy. However, even in the face of these grants many Bosnians felt betrayed both by the world and by their president for dividing their country instead of actually unifying the opposing ends (Donais, 2005).

American opinion on the Bosnian conflict

            The attitude of the American public towards foreign policy troubles during the post-cold war period can be examined in the context of the Bosnian civil war. Analyzing the patterns in connection to the knowledge and attention of the public about the Bosnian conflict, moreover, utilized several interconnected elements.

There was an imminent connection between the events and the media coverage and the public attention aimed towards that coverage. These factors and the consequent knowledge the rest of America was able to obtain from these media exposure also provided an essential link between them. Throughout the course of the media coverage, knowledge of the Bosnian events relatively rose in which the most educated of the American public held the greatest degree in these increments. A variety of policy preferences became the resulting reflection of the expansion of this knowledge inasmuch as a greater sympathy on the Bosnian Muslims shared the major part of the American opinion.

However, even at the sight of a growing public interest on foreign policies shaped after the events in the Bosnian conflict, the extent in which this interest will stretch through the course of time is beyond prediction in a post-Cold War era. It appears that the augmented interest among the American public is a mere trend in attitude towards a popular situation.

The Bosnian transition

            There remains the contention if indeed Bosnia was able to achieve freedom to a large extent and fairness among its citizens. The elections held in September in choosing those who will comprise the national parliament and three-member presidency were seen to be indicative of rampant voter intimidation and electoral fraud. It was noted by international observers that refugees were bribed by Serb nationalists to exercise their right to vote in regions where they never even intended to reside. To the amazement of the international observers, the monitoring team from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or the OSCE,  reported a voter turnout close enough to meet 110 percent.

            The electing into office of Haris Silajdic and Milorad Dodik is perceived to “tear the country apart” for several reasons. One of the claims in support to this thesis is the argument that the former’s triumph is a “reaction to Dodik’s nationalist hysteria” in very much the same way as Dodik’s success as a “reaction to Silajdic’s static rhetoric” (Pecanin, 2006). To borrow Slobodan Milosevic’s metaphor, the success of the two individuals in the elections can be interpreted as having “two eyes in a head”. That is, in the entirety of the Bosnian context, the electoral triumph of these two amounts to a division of the primary seat in determining the future of a recovering Bosnia.

            Amidst fraud in the elections and an impartial treatment among the citizens of the dichotomized state, the needs of Bosnia were furthered amplified. Among the necessities of Bosnia to facilitate its substantial recuperation, jobs have to be created, infrastructures to be repaired, and people be safely brought back to their homes.

The problem of landmines

            After the war, several problems remain unsolved and seek immediate action from both the Bosnian authorities and the international community. One of these persisting problems includes minefields with unexploded items scattered across the war zones that once separated the confronting forces. Efforts have been made to clear the field contaminated by the remaining land mines right after the Bosnian conflict. Although the efforts were consistently driven by around 40 mine action organizations for a considerable stretch of time already, the problem of mine contamination in Bosnia remains a continuing threat to the citizens for several factors.

            One of the reasons is that the remaining mines within the borders of Bosnia pose constant threat to the lives of the people who seek to return to their normal daily lives after the eruption of the social unrest. With a constant threat placing fear on the minds of many, growth among the population specifically the individuals is limited to a certain degree of mobility. Not only does the unceasing threat to their lives bring a relative effect to their personal upbringing, it also creates a larger paranoia on a larger context. The remaining mines in Bosnia eventually appear to lead the direction of the lives of the state off the control of those striving for autonomy.

            The problem of landmine contamination in the area also limits the growth of infrastructure. It proves to be a fatal hazard that gets in the way for social reconstruction and a monumental obstacle for the development of the country not only in terms of infrastructure rebuilding but also in national economic terms. Further, the large extent of the contamination also took its toll in the agricultural sector of Bosnia. With fields littered with unexploded mines, the fertile grounds of the country remain untouched and uncultivated since the onset of the Bosnian conflict.

            Although the rate at which mine accidents can be observed in the past years have consistently declined, the fact remains that many unexploded mines still contaminate a vast area of a country still haling from the wounds of the past.

The education system

            The education system of Bosnia and Herzegovina is perhaps one of the key factors in eventually rebuilding the country given a considerable stretch of time. The crucial role of education in both territories rests not merely on the level of refurbishing the quality of education these two areas have slid off from since the height of the war. Rather, its pivotal point leans on the psychological and intellectual reconstruction of the youth. By realigning the direction of the minds of the young Bosnians and Herzegovinians at the recuperation stage of the entire country, the continuing spread of intolerance, ethnic hatred and division can be eventually put to an end (McCreight, 2002).

            The Office of the High Representative (OHR) has been tasked to work not only on the mere reconstruction of educational infrastructures but, far more importantly, on the rebuilding of the intellect of the school system as well. Several changes have been noted in order to meet the tasks set forth by the appalling educational circumstances in Bosnia and Herzegovina. These OHR seeks to meet with the aid of the European Union, UNESCO, OSCE, World Bank, the Council of Europe and several International Organizations (Nations, 2005). Among the measures being pursued are reviews on textbooks, reforms in curriculum, freedom of movement in the education system, improvements on the efficiency of universities and higher institutions of learning, and the removal of discrimination against minority groups in any aspect of the system of education in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Unemployment in post-war Bosnia

            Reports on the unemployment situation in post-war Bosnia have drawn support from the international community as the nation suffered from about 40% of unemployment rate according to official figures and data gathered (Broadman et al., 2004). With this in mind, it can be noted that the development of Bosnia could still take quite a considerable stretch of time (Pupavac, 2005). For the coming years, it is expected that the nation will suffer more from the further increase in the unemployment rate (Friedman, 2004). The social implications of unemployment is deemed to cast a long shadow over the internal and external efforts to rebuild the state

            Nevertheless, even if there has been a notable decrease in the employment status of Bosnia, the fact remains that Bosnia has started to get up on its knees after the long period of bloodbath that took the lives of hundreds of thousands and brought the nation down to its knees, pulling out immediate chances of recovery not only in the short-run but also in the longer stretch of time. It is further observed that even though figures show that the integrity of the Bosnian economy has neither shown any signs of inflation nor deflation, investment as well as other economic activities are still lacking in terms of force and quantity so as to finally overhaul the economic structure of Bosnia and alleviate it from its status of depletion.

            In summary, the business environment within the premises of Bosnia needs to be optimized first for foreign investment to be attracted to install financial capital and investment. Since it is of dire necessity that businesses be put up immediately in order to fuel the economic growth of Bosnia, the expenses of setting up new investments should be decreased to a significant level (Tanter & Psarouthakis, 1999). One this is achieved, the influx of foreign investments will reach a level enough to boost the economy. The far more important consequence of this in relation to the unemployment rate in Bosnia is the generation of new jobs for the Bosnian citizens thereby improving the quality of lives apart from the one they have during the Bosnian conflict.

The Judiciary

            In line with the Dayton Agreement, provisions have been mandated to ensure an efficient judicial system in the territories. For the most part, the agreement grants the creation of a constitution as well as the establishment of a Constitutional Court that is comprised of at least nine members. The major concern of this court is to ensure the proper proceedings and decisions in constitutional disputes that are created from the previous war among the states as well as the current inconsistencies among the laws existing among the states.

In addition to this, the Constitutional Court is also given the appellate jurisdiction over the territories of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nevertheless, even if the constitution grants for the establishment of an independent judiciary system, it remains subject to the dictates and influence from political groups, nationalist entities as well as the executive branch of the government (Gallagher, 2006).

            For the most part, the laws that are implemented from the legal system are civil laws whereby open and public trials are given significant guarantees among the citizens. While the Federation Supreme Court is tasked to handle appeals from the federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the RS Supreme Court is tasked to handle appeals from the Serbian citizens.


            The current conditions of Bosnia should prompt the internal government even more to clamor for national improvement in the face of ethnic conflicts that one fueled the decline of the quality of lives of its people. Along with the external aid from the international community, the future for Bosnia is not entirely removed from the reality it is contemporarily braving.


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