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November 26, 1995
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 217
Banja Luka Gunfire

Patron Saint Fever

by Perica Vucinic

Radio BIG published the news from Dayton just after five in the afternoon and then everyone let fly from all caliber of guns. The residents of Banja Luka who hadn't heard the radio report thought it was a celebration of the day of the Holy Archangel, one of the most popular patron saints among the Serbs. The news spread across town by phone and at one point the central telephone exchange blacked out. There were festivities, a little from the Holy Archangel and a lot for the Dayton agreement deep into the night far past the curfew which in Banja Luka starts at 11:00 p.m.

Radmila Svacic cried and said that most people felt immense relief and sadness for the loved ones they lost, the people who are separated and expelled from their homes. She saw Dayton as irony; the people who could have avoided the war and didn't are now signing the peace

Her mother has mixed feeling about the agreement; she's happy the war is over but she thinks she'll never be allowed back to her home in Bosanski Petrovac.

And here is where the Banja Luka peace dilemmas begin and where unanimity of unreserved support for the agreement and achievements of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic end. After the first night of celebration, the residents of the biggest city in the Bosnian Serb Republic (RS) reported that the people were just celebrating their patron saint along with refugees from Mrkonjic Grad and Sipovo who will now be able to go home.

Predrag Lazarevic, who is said to be an authentic representative and interpreter of the interests of the nationalist intelligentsia in the Krajina, is suspicious. "The official policy did not define the goals of the war, and I don't like it.The officials wanted to be able to claim all of their achievements as historic. The Dayton peace talks were declared historic but we still can't say what they are until we see the maps."

Drago Ilic, president of the RS Socialists sees the celebrations as a kind of referendum. "That was a referendum for peace. The people who profited from the war certainly don't favor peace but you should have seen the soldiers who spent four years in the trenches - they sure want peace."

Up to this year's day of the Holy Archangel, Banja Luka saw the most shots fired in the summer of 1992 in celebration of victories on the Krajina and Vlasic fronts. None of that zeal is there now. Philosophy professor Miodrag Zivanovic who just recently arrived from the front said the army is growing soft. "We were listening to the radio in the trenches this summer and a report from the Sarajevo front when the Moslems lost 2-3,000 men. Instead of celebrating that victory, the army kept quiet. Some said: All those people got killed." When not at war, Zivanovic is the leader of Banja Luka Liberal Party. As a party leader, he welcomed the start of peace and condemned the RS delegation which voted against the agreement. He said that they should not be tried in the Hague, but by the people.

Obviously, the opposition to Karadzic and Pale, which always existed in Banja Luka has grown in size. Another question is whether Banja Luka now leans more to Milosevic than to Karadzic. Predrag Lazarevic, a consistent critic of both Serb leaders, thinks Milosevic blew his chance of becoming a first-rate Serb politician in Bosnia. "If he'd managed to get back Krupa, Sanski Most, Petrovac, Kljuc and at least part of Jajce along with Sipovo and Mrkonjic Grad, Milosevic would have become the most popular leader. Now, his chances are no better than those of the Pale leaders."

A delegation of the forum of Serb intellectuals from the Krajina visited Milosevic prior to his departure for Dayton and gave him maps which offered a way of sharing out territory in accord with the 49% allocated to the RS. When RS parliament speaker Momcilo Krajisnik says the 49% of Bosnia allocated to the RS should have included Krupa, Sanski Most, Petrovac, Drvar, and a 20 kilometer wide corridor he reffers to that map. When he says all those towns should have been given back to the RS, that could be a way to win public support and initiate another combination, but it seems he doesn't have the arguments to back up his claims.

Refugees from Sanski Most who are in Banja Luka now, are waiting to go home. They were told on November 17 that they could go to Teslic where there are empty Moslem houses. Eight year old Nedeljko Savanovic and his two younger brothers are waiting to hear if their parents are alive there.

Banja Luka Mayor Predrag Radic said for the local radio: "I felt like an invalid who wakes up from narcosis after an operation and sees that he has lost his leg and two arms, but is happy to be alive."

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