The ethnic conflict in Bosnia - Herzegovina

Essay, 2008
5 Pages, Grade: 1,7


The ethnic conflict in Bosnia - Herzegovina

Each conflict has a source, a beginning. This beginning usually is a different point of view or a different ideology of the opposing parties. At best, these conflicts come about as protest and demonstrations and are solved by compromise, by agreements or by mutual concessions. If the opposing parties cannot solve the conflict by these means, the elimination, the abolition or the destruction of the opposing group often becomes a sad reality of our world. In the worst case a war begins. If a conflict is ended by one side winning over the other by struggle or war, we may not call it a “solution.” The concept of “solution” or better “conflict resolution” is generally associated with the purposeful searching for ways of accomodating the differing interests of the opposing groups. This does not necessarily mean, that the sources of the conflict are eliminated, but that “live and let live” policy (Williams, 1947) is the framework of the further peaceful interaction of the former opposing parties.

A common proverb says: ”Half the truth is not true at all”. If one tries to understand historical courses and developments one must know, that no complete truth can be possibly found or stated.

Looking at the historical development of former Yugoslavia we find a comunist regime, followed by the so-called “Titolandia”. “Titolandia” was the period, under Marshal Tito after World War II. Tito tried to transform the postcomunist state into a more socialist republik, where the different ethnical groups lived more or less peacefully together. This period was followed by what we find today: a country split up into different national parts.

Many descriptions of the wars in former Yugoslavia cannot be regarded as historically correct, neither can they claim to represent the truth. Still many of them have been pushed into the foreground in a way, that a simple sceme of “good and bad” appeared. The Serbs were the bad, cruel culprits, the opposing groups the poor victims. It is a fact, and can be stated as such, that the Serbs commited horrible crimes during this war. But it is also true, that the Croats and the Muslims commited similar crimes.

How can the Serbs be regarded as the “bad” party and the opposing Croats and Muslims as the “good” party, seeing that they acted alike?

We can examine the dynamics of the ethnic conflict in Bosnia – Herzegovina, which grew in a way, that it reached a level of international interest. As a result, the European Community as well as the UN got involved into this conflict. I want to point at some of the causes for the increasing aggression in the conduct of this conflict. Even the international community had its part in it. “Much of the story of Bosnia is the story of how the international community attempted, but failed, to reconcile the conflict between these mutually exclusive principles of state formation” ( Burg / Shoup, The war in Bosnia – Herzegovina, 1999, p. 4).

The essence of the conflict between the different ethnic groups was their struggle for a position of power, be it for equality within the existing state, be it for the establishment of an independent national state.

The existing “state”, Bosnia, being a part of Yugoslavia, did not correspond to the historical, regional or religious identity of the citizens. One party wanted the European Community to accept the country as a sovereign state, which was absolutely not the interest of the other party, the Serbs. The existing coalition of Muslims, Croats and Serbs failed to be an effective government because of the different regional and religious interests of it’s members.

When in 1991 under Izetbegovic, the Croats and the Muslims demanded a sovereign state, the Serbs left the coalition.

Agreement or compromise became nearly impossible now.

Each time the Croats and Muslims tried a step towards an independent state, the Serbs reacted by demanding their own territories. In this sceme of action and reaction violence grew.

At this state of affairs the international community attempted to intervene, but failed. It tried to force the struggling parties to make haste in finding some kind of compromise. That was disastrous, as it lay traditionally in these people’s nature (Croats, Muslims and Serbs of Bosnia) to take their time. Haste forced aggression again.

Then another intervention by “Brussels” leaded to more violence and struggle. When the Croats and Muslims of Bosnia asked “Brussels” to recognize the country officially as a sovereign state, “Brussels” at first correctly demanded that all citizens should give their vote concerning such an important decision. But the Serbs refused. Now “Brussels” allowed a voting without them. How could such an undemocratic decision have been made? Such a voting was illegal, was against the existing law. Still it happened. Most Croats and Muslims voted, nearly no Serbs voted at all. And “Brussels” accepted the result as legal.

Did “Brussels” really expect this decision to lead to compromise, to agreement or peace, seeing that the Serb’s interests were completely disregarded?

As I have already mentioned, conflicts are solved by compromise or by agreement. This international intervention was neither a result of compromise or agreement of the parties in conflict, nor did it lead to it.

When the 6. 4. 1992 the European Community officially declared Bosnia to be a sovereign state, the war began.

Only few members of the international community critisized the decision taken by “Brussels”, but the UN was one of it, and they said so. “There’s a great difference between peace keeping and peace enforcing and what do they know about it at all, over there in ´Brussele´”, was the UN’s point of view.

When in the later course of the war in Bosnia, the surrounding Europe asked the UN to send troups, the UN was still offended and refused. “If this war is a civil war, we are not supposed to intervene”, they said, “if it is a war between two sovereign states, we need the agreement, the permission of both of them”.

Isn’t it a kind of “kindergarden” to react so offended, even if the other party (in this case “Brussels”) had acted stupidly?

How could any of those who said they wanted to solve the conflict, have decided and acted so incompetently?

Anyway, the UN sent Barrack – Goulding to find out more about the war in Bosnia. He said the war was a civil war, so that no troops could be sent. Shortly after this declaration, the UN sent peacetroups to Bosnia, who had the order not to intervene. Their presence leaded to irritations. The war escalated. Once again the intervention of the international community, was no help at all.

In the following time the civil population in Bosnia suffered terribly and also the neighbouring countries were forced to react as they lay so near. The civil population hoped, that the UN – troops would be able to save them, but the troops themselves got stuck in this war and could not move as they wished. Only the 19. 5. 1992 the UN was able to move their troops out of Sarajewo.

Although the European Community had taken wrong decisions in the past, it was asked again to mediate in Bosnia.

In the concept of the European Community the responsabilities followed a rotating system. In the meantime the portugese Minister of foreign affairs, Josê Cutilheiro, had become the responsible mediator. He decided very quickly what he thought to be the best: Under Tito, Bosnia had been a sort of “Micro – Yugoslavia”, where a concept for the whole of Yugoslavia had been tried out. In consequence one now had to look at the rest of Yugoslavia, to see what should happen to Bosnia. As the rest of Yugoslavia sort of fell into pieces and was devided, he decided that Bosnia too should be devided.

Surely it was very difficult to divide the country into three equal parts, but it would have been possible, for the people of this region, migration wase quite in their tradition. Many plans for peaceful migration of the civil population were tried, but most of them failed.


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The ethnic conflict in Bosnia - Herzegovina
University of Siegen
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ISBN (eBook)
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Bosnia, Herzegovina
Quote paper
Bachelor of Arts in Social Science / European Studies Yevgeniy Voytsitskyy (Author), 2008, The ethnic conflict in Bosnia - Herzegovina, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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