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Opposition Charges Electioneering Behind Refugees’ Transfers

June 11, 1996

TUZLA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Bosnia’s ruling party has forced thousands of Muslim refugees to move to Sarajevo in an attempt to sway upcoming elections, opposition parties charged Monday.

The opposition is accusing Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic’s Party of Democratic Action, known locally as SDA, of moving refugees from Tuzla ``to create a suitable mass of people to vote for them,″ said municipal council president Ivo Divkovic.

``The SDA is doing all this in total silence,″ Divkovic told reporters. ``It looks spontaneous, but it is well organized,″

Refugees, especially tens of thousands of Bosnia’s Muslims, are an embittered voting segment and likely would vote for Izetbegovic’s party, which is predominantly Muslim. The ruling party was not available for comment late Monday.

The two Social Democratic parties which jointly govern Tuzla charged that the SDA was violating refugee rights envisioned by the Dayton peace accord by moving the Muslim refugees into Sarajevo homes abandoned by Serbs.

Under the U.S.-brokered peace accord, refugee homeowners must be given until September to return to their homes.

Sarajevo authorities placing Muslim refugees into Serb homes in the capital say they are housing displaced people, but they have not said they are transferring Muslim refugees from Tuzla.

About 50,000 Serbs fled Sarajevo neighborhoods such as Vogosca and Ilijas before the Muslim-Croat Federation took over the areas in March under the Dayton agreement.

Many of those Serbs have moved into former Muslim homes in northeastern and eastern Bosnia, including Srebrenica itself. About 10,000 Serbs stayed behind in the five Sarajevo districts that passed to the federation.

Divkovic said a bus carrying Muslims has left Tuzla each day bound for Vogosca and Ilijas.

The Slobodna Bosna newspaper reported in late May that 10,000 people had moved into Vogosca from various areas.

Opposition parties charge that a high-level decision was made in May to move the Srebrenica refugees to former Serb-held suburbs of Sarajevo.

The exiled mayor of Srebrenica, Fahrudin Adem Salihovic, says federal authorities decided to ``temporarily shift″ the refugee population to Sarajevo suburbs.

``I am embittered that they are moving our people without any good conditions for them,″ Salihovic said. ``No one asked me about this, the only thing we got was the decision that came from the federal government that Srebrenica people have to all move by June 1.″

He claimed that people moving to Vogosca and Ilijas were offered $1,110 in building materials and $200 in cash to live in those towns.

Thousands of Muslim refugees protested June 1 at Donji Nezuk, near Tuzla, to demand their right to return to their homes. They also said they did not want to resettle in Sarajevo.

There are no exact figures on the number of refugees transferred. Some refugees remaining in Tuzla confirmed that they were ordered to resettle in or near Sarajevo. About 12,000 refugees who fled the Serb conquest of Srebrenica found safety in Tuzla.

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