A Bosnian Diary - A Floridian's Experience In Nation Building

William Potter served as an International election supervisor in Bosnia-Herzegovina and as the Air Force legel advisor to the Office of the High Representative and government of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In addition, he served as the Head of the Rule of Law Department in the administration of the High Representative Paddy Ashdown.

Given the myriad complexities of attempting to weld a viable government from the multi-ethnic scrap iron of a culture blasted apart by civil war, perhaps a simple anecdotal snapshot can summarize the frustration.

A decade ago, thanks to the international muscle flexed by the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, the Balkan peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina were bound by treaty to establish a democracy that respected human rights.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the volatile region that triggered the opening round of World War I had produced a powder keg once again, this time with horrific "ethnic cleansing" purges that claimed some 200,000 lives.

Despite the breakthrough at Dayton, the three main factions -- Christian Orthodox Serbs, Muslim Bosnians and Catholic Croats -- eyed each other with debilitating suspicion.

Propelled by his legal and military affiliations, Melbourne attorney Bill Potter made a series of trips to the Balkans beginning in 1996, most notably as an elections supervisor, until joining the Office of High Representative three years ago.

But in 1999, Potter submitted some ideas concerning consolidation to the disjointed military. Two weeks later, with no response to his letter, Potter phoned the military office for an answer.

"They told me they hadn't read the letter," Potter recalls. "I asked why not, and they said they hadn't even opened it. They told me it had been sitting there because they couldn't agree on who should open the envelope."

Welcome to nation building. -- Bill Cox "Florida Today"




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