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In Bosnia, Tension Reigns Years After War’s End

Although Bosnia and Herzegovina has repaired physically from its bloody civil war, its citizens are experiencing political and social challenges. The report is part of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting's Fragile States project, a partnership with the Bureau of International Reporting.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Finally tonight, another of our stories on fragile states around the world. Special correspondent Kira Kay reports on Bosnia Herzegovina, the Eastern European nation once part of Yugoslavia.

  • KIRA KAY:

    Amira and Sabahudin Garibovic are pioneers, Bosnian Muslims who have returned to land they were expelled from in the early 1990s, during their country's brutal ethnic war. They and their then infant son had survived a year in a detention camp. When they moved back a few years after the war ended, they found little more than ruins where their home had been.

    AMIRA GARIBOVIC, Kozarac resident. It was terrible. We didn't know whether to laugh or cry. We were happy to be back, but it was really very difficult, because we didn`t know where to start.

  • KIRA KAY:

    Today, the Garibovices have rebuilt their home and restarted their lives. But they are now minorities. Their town of Kozarac is one of the few Muslim communities inside the Serb-controlled part of Bosnia.

    Once devastated by the war, life is now slowly returning to the streets. The air is full of the sound of new construction and the Muslim call to prayer. Unemployment is still very high here. And residents say discrimination continues.

    But that Kozarac exists at all today is proof that Bosnia Herzegovina is moving away from its bloody past. One hundred thousand people were killed in the civil war here, a war that taught the world the term ethnic cleansing.

    But, 14 years ago, American and European diplomats persuaded bitter adversaries to sit down at an Ohio Air Force base and agree to stop the bloodshed in what has become known as the Dayton Accords.

    Fifty thousand NATO troops helped secure the peace, and extensive investment by the international community quickly followed. And, to many people's surprise, the peace has held. Today, most of the country has been physically repaired. The capital, Sarajevo, still carries some scars of its three-year siege, but otherwise feels like a normal bustling city.

    The NATO operation has been replaced by a much smaller European Union mission of only 2,000 troops. And there have been some major structural reforms here.

    RAFFI GREGORIAN, deputy high representative, Office of the High Representative: All these things were done in the first half of — of this decade, tremendous progress.

  • KIRA KAY:

    American diplomat Raffi Gregorian is second in command at the Office of the High Representative, the international body created by Dayton to supervise the country until it can stand on its own.