Bosnia’s foreign elections – Unwise and dangerous

By Jan Oberg

September 10, 1997

TFF PressInfo 25 originally published here.
“Symbolic or shallow democracy will be the only outcome when foreigners impose elections under extremely adverse circumstances as is the case in Dayton-Bosnia. They could even be dangerous in their consequences because some local results are likely to be implemented by force. One increasingly wonders whether the international community is in Bosnia for the sake of the people living there or to uphold an illusory image of itself as effective post-Cold War conflict-“managers” – says TFF’s director, Jan Oberg who has followed the situation since February 1992 as head of the foundation’s conflict-mitigation team to all parts of former Yugoslavia.

– “The leading Croatian party, the Bosnian branch of President Tudjman’s HDZ in Zagreb, has suggested to its members and voters to boycott the elections. It argues that the conditions for fair and free elections are not in place and complain that international election officials favour Muslims over Croats in disputes about voter registration. And it accuses OSCE of “gerrymandering” in Mostar.

– This emphasises what international media’s non-attention hides but any serious observer knows, namely that the Federation between Muslims and Croats established in March 1994 still belongs to the world of fiction.

– The present situation in Republika Srpska, RS, fulfils all conditions for a coup, outbreak of serious violence or a civil war. I am pretty sure,” predicts Jan Oberg, “that it will fall apart. Indeed, that could well be part of an unwritten longterm “gentlemen’s agreement”. Be this as it may, the power-struggling Serbs offer once again international media and the international authorities in Bosnia a reason to blame Pale for the stalling, crisis-ridden Dayton process. And quite predictably, they now also boycott the elections. So, four days before the elections two of the three largest parties are out, free not to respect election results later.

– The present situation is also caused by the Western governments which did absolutely nothing to support civil society, dissidents, non-nationalists, NGOs and independent media anywhere in ex-Yugoslavia between 1990 and end of 1995. It dealt exclusively with the top political, military and economic echelons [Read more…]

Brcko Arbitration Is No Solution

By Jan Oberg

February 7, 1997

TFF PressInfo 20 originally published here

“The future of the Brcko area was the only one not settled in Dayton. Thus, it was either the most difficult of all, or the United States and the parties agreed that it would be better to have their decision concerning that hot spot appear as binding arbitration. The arbitration decision is expected by mid-February.

But any solution will antagonise at least one of the groups in the Brcko area, the entities or neighbouring republics,” says Jan Øberg, director of the TFF who recently returned from the TFF’s 24th mission to ex-Yugoslavia, including a fact-finding visit to Brcko. “The Dayton Agreement created a conflict by not defining the area under arbitration, and it will create more now,” he adds.

“The three options usually mentioned – give it to the Federation, give it to Republika Srpska, or make it an area under international military control – are zero-sum games and care only for the interests of elites. A viable solution must must be based on the needs of people who lived and are living in that area.

Fateful decisions on complex issues in hot spots should come as a result of confidence-building and prior reconciliation, not its prod. Like all other civil, political problems dealt with in Dayton, this one was rushed and its timeframe completely unrealistic. It would have been wiser to have waited 2-3 years so a positive sum game had a chance to emerge in the Brcko area. [Read more…]