State of Emergency in Maglaj

It seems that Bocinja must fall


MON, 31 JUL 2000

SARAJEVO, July 19, 2000 - State of emergency has been declared in the town of Maglaj, in the Zenica-Doboj Canton, in the B&H Federation. Reason: some hundred protesters from the village of Bakotici tried to prevent the announced evictions in the neighbouring village of Bocinja in which, among others, lives an undetermined number of foreigners from Islamic countries, the so called mujaheddin. "After they evict them, we would be next!", claim protesters who have blocked the two existing entrances into the village of Bocinja and approaching roads on the route Zenica-Zavidovici. In response to this act, the communal authorities of Maglaj have called the cantonal police to unblock the roads and to re-establish constitutional order and personal security, as well as freedom of movement in the surrounding villages. At the same time, IPTF and SFOR were also called to help.

In addition, communal authorities - which after the April elections are mostly composed of the candidates of the opposition SDP and Party for B&H - explained that no evictions were planned in the village of Bakotici, but only in Bocinja, in the framework of the "implementation of the plan that the Federal Government has already prepared" and that it concerned first 34 families living in Bocinja, the eviction of which was planned for July 24. These families are double users of property well known to the authorities who - while illegally using other people's homes - rent their own. At the same time, Dzevad Galijasevic (Party for B&H), President of the Communal Council of Maglaj, claims that " Bocinja and the implementation of property laws are not the real issue here, but rather a major security problem and question of the relation towards life in a community!"

It is believed that some 170 families are living in Bocinja, i.e. close to 600 inhabitants, out of which some 100 are mujaheddin, according to the authorities in Maglaj. The new Maglaj authorities do not have precise data whether these foreigners have been registered as B&H inhabitants, whether they have identity cards, B&H nationality or any other document whereby they could prove that they have been integrated into the B&H legal-constitutional system since no one who doesn't belong to or supports mujaheddin community is allowed here. It is assumed that the majority of them are married to girls from B&H, that they arrived to Bocinja after the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords, i.e. after the cessation of military conflicts in which they actively participated, and that they live in a closed system and according to mujaheddin code: "These are foreigners who came here as a para-military formation, who have never been demobilised or demilitarised," explains Galijasevic. The mujaheddin community in Bocinja remained a mystery even for numerous media people who managed to get only as far as the village entrance. Galijasevic claims that even the old communal authorities, i.e. Izetbegovic's SDA, had no insight into the situation in this village. In other words, legal authorities and order of B&H were never realised in practice in Bocinja.

"Culprits for such a situation in Bocinja and the entire region of Novi Seher, are the cantonal and federal police forces, primarily the Ministry of the Interior, because they have failed to establish constitutional order, material, property and personal security and freedom of movement in that village", explains Galijasevic.

He went even further to individually name local highly placed SDA cadres - Semsudin Mehmedovic, Zudija Rosevic and others who "for the sake of their party's interests did not touch mujaheddin from Bocinja in gratitude for their contribution during the war they gave in the B&H Army ranks". In all fairness, broader public believes that Bocinja is not a local product, but something imposed from a higher level. Namely, the current deputy Minister of Defence and former commander of the Zenica corps, under whose command mujaheddin fought in B&H, Sakib Mahmuljin is mentioned as author of the project for the settlement of mujaheddin in Bocinja. However, even Galijasevic holds highly responsible the Federal Minister of Social Policy, Labour and Refugees and Displaced Persons, Sulejman Garib (SDA), who is today shifting the blame to the authorities saying that "if Maglaj authorities are unable to resolve property problems in Bocinja, they should resign".

Galijasevic clarified that the new communal authorities "are on totally unfamiliar ground". "We are only behaving in accordance with the Federal Government's programme which envisages the resettlement of Bocinja, but the Minister in charge, Garib, never openly admitted that his party actually never intended to resolve the problem of Bocinja. Until now this commune recorded the worst results as regards the return. No Serb or Bosniac ever came back here...", claims Galijasevic.

Actually, almost two months ago, i.e. immediately after the election of the new Prefect and President of the Communal Council, the new Maglaj authorities announced the resolution of the Bocinja problem and introduction of constitutional-legal order in this part of the state. Institutions of the international community in B&H also announced sanctions for the entire commune unless the problem of mujaheddin settlement and illegal use of other people's property, was quickly and properly resolved. Several possible solutions were announced for the temporary inhabitants of Bocinja - possibility of return to their own countries, settlement in their wives' pre-marital homes, subleasing or buying of houses, but at a market price (DM 600 per square meter of housing space), and not as the case was until now - whole houses and surrounding plots for unbelievably low DM 15 to 20 thousand!

In early June, Bosko Jovanovic, President of the Association for the Return to Bocinja, located in Doboj, announced that the Serbs from Bocinja would demand the annulment of sale contracts for previously sold houses for unacceptably low prices.

According to information that AIM managed to obtain, during the demonstrations in the commune of Maglaj, a protesters' letter arrived, which claimed that one of the main requests was not only preventing the possible eviction of Bosniacs from Bakotici, but, quite contrary, prevention of the eviction of mujaheddin from Bocinja. It is unofficially claimed that no one else but SDA is behind all this, because it did nothing during its rule to resolve the problem of Bocinja, although it declaratively undertook to do so after the pressures exerted by the international community, as well as the local public. Allegedly, the initiator of the whole "popular event" on the road to Bocinja is currently the most influential SDA man and the Federal Prime Minister, Edhem Bicakcic who, taking advantage of yet another injustice which is happening to Bosniacs, wants to homogenise the national electorate and bring it back under the patronage of SDA.

That is why manipulated Bosniac women, worn out by sufferings, cried before TV cameras that no Serb can return to their village and that they dare him do so. However, the state of emergency declared by the new local authorities shows that the opposition is determined to finally resolve the problem of Bocinja and mujaheddin, who are outside the law and state system. First announced evictions for July 24, are impatiently expected here and bets are already made whether they will be carried out with or without SFOR, i.e. peacefully or by force. Whichever happens, that will be the first time for many people here to get into the village whose name in recent years sounded like a real mystery, the dark side of the coin or a symbol of unhidden fear. It seems that Bocinja must fall.

Original article