The Bosnian Serb military returned Monday to Sarajevo suburbs it once controlled. This time, it came in defeat: Its forces were evacuating the few thousand Serbs remaining in the Bosnian capital.
The departure of thousands of Serbs in advance of the city’s reunification next month under Bosnian government rule stifles hopes that Sarajevo could retain some of its multiethnic character.
Kris Janowski, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, expressed dismay at the NATO-led peace implementation force’s decision to allow Bosnian Serb military trucks into the districts of Vogosca, Ilijas and Rajlovac to pick up refugees and their belongings.
Officials of the force said they did not want the Serbs to go, but that they were facing reality: Most Serbs preferred leaving to submitting to the rule of Bosnia’s Muslim-led government.
Although the Bosnian peace agreement left no side feeling it was the clear winner, Sarajevo’s Serbs clearly feel they lost the most because they have to turn over their five districts to the government by March 19.
Of perhaps 50,000 Serbs who lived in western suburbs such as Vogosca, Ilijas and Hadzici, only about 5,000 remain. International officials expect most of them to leave, too.
There was no count of the number who left Monday with the 40 Bosnian Serb military trucks permitted into the area. Some of the people waiting for transport said they had not been treated badly by the Muslim-Croat federation police who started patrolling there on Friday.
“They are all very polite,” said Jadranka Bosiljevic, who came to Vogosca after fleeing from Visoko in central Bosnia. “But I am in a Muslim house, so I don’t dare stay.”