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2. Background: Background notes

Independence from Yugoslavia on April of 1992

The Bosnian conflict began in the spring of 1992 when the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina held a referendum on independence. The Bosnian Serbs, supported by neighboring Serbia, responded with armed resistance aimed at partitioning the republic along ethnic lines and joining Serb-held areas to form a “greater Serbia”.

In March 1994, Bosnia’s Muslims and Croats reduced the number of warring factions from three to two by signing an agreement in Washington creating their joint Muslim/Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Federation, formed by the Muslims and Croats in March 1994, is one of two entities (the other being the Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska) that now comprise Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On November 21, 1995 in Dayton, Ohio, the former Yugoslavia’s three warring parties signed a peace agreement that brought to a halt over three years of interethnic civil strife in Bosnia and Herzegovina (the final agreement was signed in Paris on December 14, 1995 and includes a new Constitution, which is now in force.).

The Dayton Agreement, signed by then Bosnian President Izetbegovic, Croatian President Tudjman, and Serbian President Milosevic, divided Bosnia and Herzegovina into roughly equal parts between the Muslim/Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska while maintaining Bosnia’s currently recognized borders.

In 1995-96, a NATO-led international peacekeeping force (IFOR) of 60,000 troops served in Bosnia to implement and monitor the military aspects of the agreement. IFOR was succeeded by a smaller, NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) whose mission is to deter renewed hostilities.

While SFOR remains in place, a Higher Representative appointed by the UN Security Council is responsible for civilian administration of the accord. This includes monitoring implementation, facilitating any difficulties arising in connection with civilian implementation and coordinating activities of the civilian organizations and agencies within Bosnia.

Although a clear goal of the Dayton agreement was to reestablish a multi-ethnic, united Bosnia and Herzegovina, little progress has been made toward that end. Due largely to obstruction by local authorities, the overwhelming majority of whom are members of the nationalist parties, few people were able to return to their prewar homes during 1997. Of the more than two million Bosnians who were displaced by the war, only approximately 250,000 had returned to the country by November that year; and very few to their pre-war homes in areas that are now controlled by another ethnic group. What is more, during the two years since Dayton, another 80,000 individuals have been displaced due to transfer of territory between the two entities.