March 9, 1992 Vreme News Digest Agency No 24

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sketches Of Hell

by Roksanda Nincic

The expectations that Bosnia could remain peaceful turned out to be unrealistic. Too many overzealous people have been working on making the threats of armed conflict become a reality

The 1990 electoral victory of three national parties in B&H announced the possibility of a political, national and even territorial rupture. The Serbian national party (SDS - Serbian Democratic Party) started drawing a map of B&H according to the instructions from Belgrade; the Croatian party made its own in cooperation with Zagreb, and the Moslems were left with trying to salvage what they could and finding someone to help them do it. The analysts of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina gave two estimates immediately after adopting a memorandum on sovereignty. The first was that B&H is no more. The second was that the question of the realization of the republic sovereignty was, in effect, a question of war and peace in B&H. War, a real war, would start the minute Moslems took up arms too.

Radovan Karadzic, the leader of Bosnian Serbs, could be said to be one of the principal creators of the conflict in B&H. These days he has been saying that "all the requests for the referendum and the independence of B&H are illegal" and that they represent "a grave mistake which is instigating uncontrollable processes". Referendum of the Serbian people in B&H, which was held on November 10 last year with the aim of establishing whether they want "to stay in the common state with the ones who wish the same", naturally, was not illegal and did not instigate any processes. The difference is that these days his estimates coincide with the right wing extremist parties in Serbia.

At the press conference of the Serbian National Renewal it was confirmed that war in B&H is inevitable. Seselj's Serbian Radical Party warns "the Bosnian fundamentalists and their frontman Izetbegovic" that they could "pay in blood".

Karadzic once said that he was not interested in what others thought about his perception of the B&H future. He is only interested in what Serbs think about it. However, Serbs from Bosanska Krajina have been openly denouncing their loyalty from him these days, because they feel that he has betrayed their interests. In the course of the last year, Serbian autonomous regions sprang up in Bosnia one after another. Finally, the Serbian Republic B&H was proclaimed, ready to join the federation of Serbian states. The Serbian authorities and the army have cooperated closely in B&H since the beginning of the conflict in Croatia. It is a fact that the army has been supplying the paramilitary formations in B&H with arms. Several months ago, when asked whether JNA armed Eastern Herzegovina, the military sources used to state that it was only natural, since all Croats in Western Herzegovina were already armed. Apart from this, numerous paramilitary formations were formed. The arm supplies came from Serbia and Montenegro, in addition to those from the army.

Naturally, the Croatian side did not lag behind. It is estimated that there are around 15 000 heavily armed men of Dobrosav Paraga (a Croatian extremist and leader of the Croatian Rights Party) stationed in Western Herzegovina. Paraga's aims are, in all likelihood, much more ambitious than Tudjman's. In the interview published in last week's VREME, Mr. Parage claims that the conflict in Bosnia can be expected "I can see that it is inevitable", he says that his aim is not only to unite Western Herzegovina with Croatia - but all of B&H, since it concerns "the territory which is naturally and historically Croatian".

The Moslems, of course, were far from placing their trust solely in Allah either. Alija Izetbegovic was very successful in internationalizing the Bosnian crisis, so that, despite the latest conflicts, a significant number of "the blue helmets" will be stationed in Sarajevo and Banja Luka. But, although Izetbegovic never publicly considered the possibility of a split within B&H, his last year's statement has been remembered when he said that they would consent to "that over which we can prosperously rule". It has been rumoured that the members of the Party for Democratic Action are getting armed quietly, but until recently it was believed that they in no way threatened their armed counterparts belonging to two other nations and the army. However, Paraga now claims the Moslems are increasingly joining Paraga's men. Moslems who live in predominantly Serbian regions have been secretly organizing themselves.

If we add between 300 000 to 400 000 armed army men in B&H, which is very interested in the fate of certain of its vital points in B&H, the sketch of hell becomes complete. One thing, however, is certain: nobody, literally nobody can claim not to know what the possible consequences of the developments in Bosnia could be. If that is any consolation at all.