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FALL, 1997: Volume 2 Issue 3

Eastern Slavonia on the Brink of War by Mary Arnett

Eastern Slavonia is that part of the Republic of Croatia along the Danube which borders the Republic of Serbia, one of the two remaining Federated Republics of Yugoslavia (FRY). Eastern Slavonia is a very fertile agricultural area and has long been home to a variety of nationalities. In parts of Eastern Slavonia, there are large Serbian communities, some long settled, some made up of newly displaced persons from other parts of Croatia, who in turn have displaced Croatians. Here the fighting in the war of 1991-95 was heavy, and tensions remain high. It is actually as close to a flash point for another war breaking out, as is Bosnia; but, as we were told when we were there, "Bosnia highjacked the headlines." Will the Croatian government absorb the Serbs who have come into this territory or again displace them? So far it has not demonstrated the ability or the will to address the problem positively.

For the past five years, much of Eastern Slavonia has been under the United Nations Temporary Administration for Eastern Slavonia (UNTAES), which is scheduled to pull out in January, 1998. UNTAES has completed its mandate to demilitarize the area (although every household continues to have at least one gun) and to reorient all the utility lines away from Belgrade (Serbia) and towards Zagreb (Croatia). Although they do not have a mandate to do so, Jeannie Peterson of Michigan, the chief of the unit's Civil Affairs Office, and Erica Johnson of Baltimore, her assistant, are turning their attention to the human and psychological problems of the people, researching the methodologies of conflict resolution and drawing on the experience of local peace and human rights groups. They were amazed to hear of the existence of such a comprehensive program as AVP and, when given a copy of the manual, were eager to study it carefully. Perhaps we can help introduce training through the UNTAES which will even start to disarm UN peacekeepers!

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