Ethnic hostilities still rule Srebrenica

SREBRENICA, Jul 10, 2000 -- (AFP) Bosnian Serb Milos Markovic and his Muslim wife returned to Srebrenica after eight years of exile, to be exposed to the same ethnic hostilities they had fled during war-time massacres.

When Markovic went to the town hall to ask for money to rebuild his house he was told he was ineligible as he was in a mixed marriage.

"Serbs treat me as a traitor since I left and did not fight, and I cannot go to Muslims to ask for money since I am not one of them," he said, sitting on a borrowed bed that once belonged to UN forces protecting the "safe zone" for Muslims until 1995.

Like most Srebrenica inhabitants, mainly Serb refugees who fled their homes in the Muslim-Croat part of Bosnia, the Markovic family has no income.

"I am spending my savings," said Markovic, who once owned a restaurant in Srebrenica.

Markovic said his Muslim wife Amira had been shunned by their Serb neighbours.

Although she spent 13 years working in the city hall, Amira was not even considered by municipal authorities for any new job openings, Markovic said.

"We need a lot more encouragement and a lot more money to get things started here," argues Charlie Powell, who is the head of the Office of the High Representative in Srebrenica.

Serb nationalist parties want to colonize Srebrenica Powell said.

On the other side the Muslim nationalist Party of Democratic Action (SDA) which has a majority of municipal government seats oppose a smooth return process for refugees like Markovic, Powell said.

Ethnic tensions in Srebrenica remain a huge obstacle to the return process, with constant Serb denials of the 1995 massacres when over 7,000 Muslims are believed to have been executed by Serb forces following the fall of the town.

Some 4,000 bodies have been found so far in the vicinity of Srebrenica, but only 70 have been identified.

Muslim and Serb councillors have agreed that a monument to the victims should be built, but there is no consensus on the location or size of the memorial.

The anniversary next week of the massacres has brought war-time memories flooding back.

Associations of Srebrenica survivors living in the Croat-Muslim federation say over five thousand people will travel to Potocari, outside Srebrenica to mark the anniversary.

Powell said the whole event was being politicized by the SDA, adding that there were facilities for only 850 people.

Serb war veterans' union in Srebrenica oppose the whole event, calling it a provocation and claiming that the only victims were soldiers killed in action.

However Mesib Mandzic, the Muslim mayor of Srebrenicasaid that Muslim councillors, who live together in two houses repaired by international aid money, were socializing with their Serb neighbours.

"We do not discuss the 1995 events with them," he added.

According to Mandzic the main problems the town administration faces are a lack of drinking water, a stagnant econmy and a bad sewage system.

Original article