The Dayton Peace Accords are credited for producing the General Framework Agreement that brought an end to the war and hostilities witnessed in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the early 1990s. Although the U.S. mediation played a significant role to the processes that led to the signing in 1995 of the Dayton Peace Agreement, other countries operating under the auspices of the Balkan Contact Group, and which included Russia, Britain, France and Germany, also played a role in successfully bringing to an end the war in Bosnia (UMHRL, n.d.).
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However, opinion has been divided about the possibility of the agreements to bring enduring peace and stability in the Balkans (Caplan, 2000). It is the object of this paper to critically evaluate the Dayton Peace Accords with a view to bringing into the fore various undercurrents related to the agreements.
Through constructive and often tricky negotiations, the Contact Group and delegations representing the Republic of Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia reached a consensus on the terms of a General Framework Agreement (GFA) that was to be implemented with a view to end hostilities (UMHRL, n.d.).
A careful analysis of some of the annexes making up the GFA, especially those on regional stabilization, inter-entity boundary and elections, reveals that although the Dayton Peace Agreements (DPA) led to some significant breakthroughs that rendered tenable the halting of atrocities perpetrated by the Serb nationalists on the non-Serbs, the structural weaknesses contained in the agreements cannot guarantee long-term peace, stability and coexistence of diverse ethnic groups in the region.
The DPA, for instance, adopted the proposal made by the Contact Group to divide Bosnia-Herzegovina on the basis of 49-51 percent in favor of the Muslim-Croat side (UMHRL, n.d.). After a quarter of a century since the DPA was signed in Paris, ethnic tension in Bosnia is still prevalent, and all sides openly challenge the country’s political system that was principally determined by the Dayton accords (Caplan, 2000).
As such, it can only be argued that though the agreement was a master broke of international diplomacy, the participants never took adequate time to understand the dynamics of the conflict. It is clear that one of the main objectives of the DPA was to bring regional stabilization by refining inter-entity boundaries, particularly in the case of Sarajevo, Gorazde, and Brcko (UMHRL, n.d.).
However, realities on the ground demonstrate that the concept of inter-entity boundary line between the Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic was ill-advised based on the fact that Bosniaks and Croats continued to press for the abolishment of Entities and the reinforcing of central institutions, while Serb nationalists continued to press for secession (Caplan, 2000).
It is imperative to note that even the international community itself has viewed the DPA as unfeasible in the light of these developments, thus the need to undertake continuous modification of the framework. With this in mind, it can further be argued that the DPA failed to recognize the realities on the ground though one of its primary objectives was to bridge the diverse interests of the different ethnic communities with realities on the ground.
Upon careful examination of the DPA, it can be argued that the participants used a partition approach to conflict resolution by pushing for the wartime ethnic leaderships to keep their nationalistic programs and power-sharing arrangements.
The agreement on elections (annex 3) clearly demonstrates that the DPA envisaged the establishment of several common superimposed institutions, which included a tripartite presidency (for the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska), a council of ministers, and a bicameral legislature (UMHRL, n.d.).
The political legitimacy of the mentioned institutions was to be based on ethnic proportionality among the three ethnic communities (Serbs, Croats, and Bosnia Muslim), but this arrangement unintentionally triggered the formation of ethnically-leaning parties at the expense of national or ethnically mixed parties (Caplan, 2000).
This observation further demonstrates that DPA failed to recognize the realities on the ground as the ethnic-oriented parties have proved to be a major impediment in the peace implementation process. The DPA, however, was largely successful in providing a security infrastructure that made sure that all the warring parties respected the ceasefire agreement and worked towards the stabilization of the region.
The annexes on military aspects and regional stabilization restricted military deployments and exercises in certain geographical areas, restrained the introduction of foreign combatant forces, encouraged withdrawal of heavy weapons and forces and military demobilization efforts, emphasized the release or transfer of combatants and civilians without delay, and laid the groundwork for the implementation of a multinational military Implementation Force (IFOR) and a Joint Military Commission (UMHRL, n.d.).
The 60,000 NATO troops operating under IFOR was successful in ensuring that the ceasefire agreed by the warring parties was honored, in addition to facilitating the return of refugees and displaced persons by providing security. By promoting the establishment of IFOR, military coordination was improved and the opportunity for disgruntled militant groups to stage attacks on civilian targets was considerably reduced.
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Caplan, R. 2000. “Assessing the Dayton Accord: The Structural Weaknesses of the General Framework for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Diplomacy & Statecraft 11, no. 2, 213-232.
University of Minnesota Human Rights Library. n.d. “The Dayton Peace Accords on Bosnia.” Web.