The lessons of Dayton

The Muslims were forced to swallow a bitter pill in letting the Serbs profit from their violence. And yet we see the same things happening again and again and nothing is done to stop it even though the ink on those promises is not yet dry. We would engage with groups who are regarded as beyond the Pale without worrying about giving them legitimacy in order to stop more deaths. Really? They closed the agreement before anyone could have second thoughts. They were packing their bags. The unspeakable massacre of Muslim men and boys, the rape of the women and the shipping of the rest to Tuzla finally jolted the world awake. When the anniversary of Srebrenica was marked in July we heard the pious invocations of ‘never again’ yet again from politicians and diplomats. There are no Richard Holbrooke streets or statues in Sarajevo. The agreement nearly didn’t happen. If we actually mean what we say about ‘never again’ the memory of the victims of Srebrenica and all the other massacres needs to be seared on our souls so we do not permit its repetition and the creation of new victims and new hatred. Dayton was an imperfect peace because the international community waited so long to intervene. The anniversary of Dayton and the memory of Srebrenica should make us return to it. Would we look on as fighting starts again in Tigray in Ethiopia? There was much celebration, but it was a very imperfect peace. But it shouldn’t have taken genocide to force the international community to act. The debate in the UN about the Right to Protect, an international duty to intervene to prevent humanitarian disasters, in the aftermath of Kosovo war at the beginning of this century fizzled out in the face of Russian and Chinese vetoes. Instead of just marking bitter anniversaries, let’s do something to stop there being any more bitter anniversaries like Srebrenica. But the process was saved by the unlikely person of Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader, who was desperate for an agreement and made a dramatic last-minute concession which the Bosnian Muslims could not refuse. If we meant what we said would we have stood by while genocide took place in Rwanda? Would we watch with pity the suffering of the children of Yemen but do nothing? It was too late to reverse what had happened in the civil war. During the same period, Powell served as Downing Street Chief of Staff during the premiership of Tony Blair and was later assigned by former Prime Minister David Cameron to serve as Britain's special envoy to Libya. Each generation needs to keep the memories alive. I have heard leaders say ‘never again’ too often after appalling acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing and state violence. We don’t have to wait till they are in our living rooms on CNN. We would put pressure on governments to talk rather than fight. epa05020461 Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic (R), Democratic Action party leader Bakir Izetbegovic (C), and Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic (L) attend an investment conference at a site of the 1995 massacre in which 8,000 Muslim boys and men were killed by Bosnian Serb forces backed by Belgrade, in Srebrenica, Serbia, 11 November 2015. The separation between Serbs, Croats and Muslims is set in stone. The conference imed to attract investors to Srebrenica takes place on 11 and 12 November 2015. According to George Packer’s excellent biography of the American diplomat Richard Holbrooke, the day before everyone had given up and agreed to a press release announcing the failure of the negotiations. It was only the genocide in Srebrenica, and the publicity that accompanied it, that forced their hands. In that sense, Srebrenica led to Dayton. If we mean ‘never again’ we would be much more willing to intervene to prevent armed conflicts before they take off and stop them before they start. Resolutions have been passed and speeches made, promises given. I have spent the greater part of my life working on armed conflicts and the negotiations to end them. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>The lessons of Dayton

By Jonathan Powell
CEO of Inter Mediate an NGO which works on armed conflicts around the world and was the UK's chief government negotiator in Northern Ireland from 1997-2007. EPA/FEHIM DEMIR

A 2015 file photo showing Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic (R), Democratic Action party leader Bakir Izetbegovic (C), and former Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic (L) attending conference in Srebrenica, the site of the July 1995 massacre in which at least 8,000 Bosniak (Muslim) men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces. But at least Dayton stopped the killing. That led to a serious diplomatic effort backed up by bombing which forced the Serbs to the table. EPA-EFE//FEHIM DEMIR

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Twenty-five years ago this month, the Dayton Agreement was signed in an airforce base in Ohio ending years of bloody fighting in Bosnia. brokered peace accord, agreed on November 21, 1995 in Dayton, Ohio. And, most of all, an ungainly system of government was put in place in Bosnia that prevents the country from recovering properly. Would we have shrugged our shoulders while the people of Syria went through hell at the hands of  Assad? More than 100,000 people were killed during 1992-95 civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Now they had to do something. This is not a plea to give in to the demands of the men with violence. Forced ethnic power-sharing makes it impossible for the people to ‘throw the rascals out’ in elections and they are condemned to corrupt and ineffective regimes. Some 100,000 people were killed during 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina which ended 20 years ago by a U.S. The international community has moved on and turned its back on the problem. The conflict moved on to Kosovo. On the contrary, we should back up our negotiations with the threat of force to get them to take us seriously. The Mayor of Srebrenica is a Serb, who even today denies that the genocide took place. The Europeans and the Americans had sat on their hands while the different ethnic groups in the Balkans slaughtered each other.