Serb mayor tries to stem exodus



An impassioned appeal for Tito's beloved brotherhood and unity it is not, but at least one Bosnian Serb politician is trying to reach an understanding with his former enemies in Sarajevo.

Maksim Stanisic, mayor of the Serb-held districts of the capital during the war, is working against the odds to persuade his neighbours to stay in the five Sarajevo suburbs reverting to Bosnian government rule. His new group, the Democratic Initiative of Sarajevo Serbs, hindered at every turn by the Bosnian Serb leadership in Pale, has made little headway so far - some 40,000 people are estimated to have fled, against about 10,000 still in the area.

But as the last hope of the international community - "the last straw", one observer said - Mr Stanisic is nurtured by foreign officials desperate for any sign of support for the peace process and the reunification of Bosnia. Mr Stanisic's decision to stay in Ilidza, which this week reverted to government control, required courage - perhaps allied to a sense that as a Serb in a united Sarajevo he might build a political base with more power than numbers alone would warrant.

Yesterday, he looked drawn and nervous, chain-smoking and fiddling with his notebook or a hanger, but remained resolute. "We must try to carry on the work of the organisation. We must help everyone who has had a bad experience and has now decided to leave, but at the same time we will help anyone who wants to stay," he said.

The Democratic Initiative was founded last month at a meeting in Ilidza attended by around 300 people - quite a number, given that many Serbs regard those who want to stay as traitors. Aside from the genuine fears of reprisal by those the Serbs besieged for so long, stirred to fever pitch by the leadership in Pale, anyone who considers staying on in the five suburbs faces serious practical problems: those departing have cut off utilities, and stripped factories and houses.

Mr Stanisic has said there is nothing he can do to prevent such asset- stripping in Ilidza, though he is trying to ensure that at least one clinic is staffed throughout the transition.

"People are afraid, and we are working in impossible conditions," Mr Stanisic said. Did we know the cartoon "Stop the world, I want to get off"? "I feel a little bit like that . . ."

Mr Stanisic, a lawyer who worked before the war as the deputy administrator for Sarajevo, is a politician but not, he says, a member of the Serb Democratic Party, the nationalists led by Radovan Karadzic into war. International officials who worked with him throughout the war in his capacity as mayor of Serb-held parts of Sarajevo view him as a moderate - at least in relation to Mr Karadzic and his colleagues in Pale.

Mr Stanisic says he has received a positive response from the Bosnian government, but wants more in the way of guarantees that angry refugees will not be allowed to storm into the suburbs and harass Serbs there.

As Ilidza reverts to government rule, does he envisage a life shared with Muslims? He has said that children should be bussed to Serb schools in Lukavica, which remains under Pale's control, but what about mixed communities, shops, bus services and so on? Mr Stanisic looks uncomfortable. "I'm just saying that the Serb people here have an interest in staying here, and whether they live with or next to Muslims is not important," he said.

So if Serbs and Muslims could live together in some form, what was the point of the war? He laughed, put his head in his hands, then dodged the question in best Balkan style: "For the answer to that we must go back in time . . ."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
house + home
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Life and Style
Bats detect and react to wind speed and direction through sensors on their wings
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living