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9-08-2015, 23:56


Civilisation is more than great art and literature. Where basic human rights to life, liberty and justice are not held to be sacrosanct civilisation does not exist. Too often it is taken for granted by those who enjoy its prerogatives. It is fragile; the events that took place in Yugoslavia revealed just how fragile. The reversion to barbarism there was terrifyingly swift and unexpected. For decades Yugoslavia, with its beautiful coastline, had been a popular destination for millions of holidaymakers. No one could have predicted the descent into violence or the horrifying stories broadcast by the Western media – the shelling of medieval Dubrovnik; the deaths of thousands of civilians in the siege of multi-ethnic Sarajevo, whose citizens had prided themselves on their cosmopolitan tolerance; the pictures of skeletal concentration camp victims and mass graves of the thousands who had been butchered in cold blood. Millions of refugees were forced to flee from one region to another or left Yugoslavia altogether. But why was this surge of hatred so surprising? Perhaps because Yugoslavia was seen as a European country and, despite the Nazi atrocities perpetrated during the Second World War, the belief in Western racial superiority had persisted. At the close of the century savagery might well occur in Africa or in regions of Asia, but surely not in Europe or the West. This assumption proved to be a tragic delusion. Wherever law and order breaks down, wherever an organised leadership encourages murder and arson in order to secure power, there are always willing volunteers who, under the cloak of a cause and protected from retribution, are prepared to commit horrendous crimes. They can be found anywhere in the world – in Europe, Asia, the Americas or Africa. Who then was responsible for the conflict? What were the rights and wrongs? The Serbs claimed that if Yugoslavia broke up then the frontiers of the multi-ethnic republics should be redrawn so that all Serbs could live in a greater Serbia. In 1990 almost a third of the Croatian Republic was inhabited by a Serb majority; more than a million Serbs also lived in Bosnia- Herzegovina. Thus Serbs would be divided between three republics – Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina if their existing frontiers were preserved. Counter-arguments were put forward by Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Croatia resisted Serbia’s claims, asserting that individual groups could not be allowed to redraw the frontiers of the country they lived in and that the existing state frontiers of the Croatian Republic were inviolate. Inconsistently though, Croatia wanted control of the regions of Bosnia- Herzegovina inhabited by Croats. The geographical scattering of Croats, Serbs and Muslims throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina (later simply referred to as Bosnia) made it impossible to draw any coherent frontiers on an ethnic basis. The Bosnian Muslims wanted to retain a federal structure that allowed multicultural communities to live in one republic. Only desperation had induced Bosnia to declare independence in 1992, knowing that it would lead to bitter conflict between Muslims, Croats and Serbs. Serbia’s population of 9.7 million was twice that of Croatia (4.8 million) and Bosnia (4.4 million), and the Yugoslav People’s Army (the JNA) generally followed orders from Belgrade. This placed Serbia in a dominant position. President Milosˇevic´’s aim was to unite all Serbs if Serbia was no longer able to dominate a federal Yugoslavia; he therefore regarded any declaration of independence by Croatia and Bosnia based on their existing frontiers as a challenge to greater Serbia and he was ready to respond with force. When Slovenia, with a population of less than 2 million, declared its independence on 25 June 1991, Milosˇevic´ had already decided that since there were few Serbs in Slovenia it could secede from federal Yugoslavia with its existing territory. After a few days of fighting, the Yugoslav army withdrew from Slovenia. Croatia followed suit declaring its independence on 26 June 1991. Milosˇevic´ was equally prepared to allow Croatia to leave federal Yugoslavia provided the Croats gave up Slavonia, a region in the extreme northeast with a majority Serb population, and the mainly Serb-populated territory of the Krajina along Bosnia’s north-eastern frontier. Serb rebel leaders in the Krajina had already declared independence from Croatia. Thus Croatia was threatened by rebellion from within, by Serbia and by Serbia’s ally, Montenegro. Croatian president Franjo Tudjman was an ardent nationalist and he was determined to defend every inch of Croatian territory. Bloody conflict became inevitable. The wars that were to cause a loss of life and destruction in the heart of Europe not witnessed since the Second World War proceeded unchallenged for four years: the most powerful countries of the West were unwilling to intervene and even connived to reward the principal aggressor, Serbia. At first the European Community attempted to cool the crisis by declaring that it would not recognise unilateral declarations of independence by any of the republics. Yet only a week later Douglas Hurd, the British foreign secretary, stated that a republic could not be forced to remain in the federal state ‘by shooting its citizens’. Public opinion in Western Europe had supported Slovenia’s assertion of independence. But generally the leaders in the republics showed scant regard for the views of the European leaders when it suited them. On 8 July 1991, without reference to the European Community, the Slovenian declaration of independence was formally accepted by all the Yugoslav republics; no triumph this for EC diplomacy. However, in Croatia and Bosnia the situation was quite different. In Croatia President Tudjman, aware of his country’s military unpreparedness, had unsuccessfully tried to postpone an undeclared war. The Krajina was lost to indigenous Serb rebels; Serb ‘irregulars’, aided by the JNA, attacked eastern Slavonia. During the autumn of 1991 the Croats stood their ground in the town of Vucovar. Its complete destruction and surrender on 20 November after a three-month siege shocked the West; television sets broadcast the grim fate of the civilian population. It was only a taste of what was in store over the next four years. The Croat prisoners taken in Vucovar were massacred in cold blood or herded into concentration camps, where they were starved and beaten, their skeletal bodies reminiscent of Belsen victims. The response of civilised Europe was shockingly inadequate: the new military status quo was accepted without question and mediation was offered. A UN peacekeeping force was despatched to Croatia, but the conquered Croat lands remained in Serb hands. ‘Ethnic cleansing’ had begun. This policy of appeasement was to become a characteristic of Western diplomacy until 1995. On the Dalmatian coast Dubrovnik was bombarded by the JNA in October 1991 but held out for seven months; meanwhile, in another twist, the Serbs and Croats had reached a secret agreement to carve up Bosnia between them. If it had been possible to resolve the conflict through diplomacy and mediation, then one of the plans submitted to the Croats, the Serbs and Bosnians by the skilful mediator Lord Carrington, sent by the European Community, might well have proved a basis for ending it. There was to be no shortage of mediators. In 1992 and 1993, after the departure of Carrington, Lord David Owen and Cyrus Vance took up the thankless task and put forward more proposals. An early plan tried to preserve the federal structure of Yugoslavia. This had to be abandoned, however, when in January 1992, on the insistence of Germany, the European Community reluctantly recognised the independence of Croatia and Slovenia. There is no space or need to describe in detail all the mediation efforts that were launched over the following three years. They all failed because Serbia and Croatia wanted to enlarge their states at each other’s or Bosnia’s expense. The United Nations and the European Community insisted that their mission was ‘peacekeeping’; Croatia and Serbia, however, were determined to fight. As the UN and the EC were unwilling to use force, what was left? In September 1991 an arms embargo was imposed by the UN on all parties in the conflict, regardless of whether they were victims or perpetrators of aggression. The warring parties attended peace negotiations chaired by international mediators but in reality they followed their own agendas. Clearly the wars could continue indefinitely in the absence of outside intervention. But Britain, France and other European countries could not simply watch as millions were driven from their homes and hundreds of thousands were exposed to starvation and death. A relief force bringing humanitarian aid was organised under the UN flag. The ‘blue helmets’ had strict orders not to take sides: they depended on the permission of the aggressors to bring aid to starving people. Meanwhile the US washed its hands of what it saw as Europe’s problem. American intervention as part of another UN mission in Somalia was proving disastrous, and the Clinton administration refused to commit US ground troops to Bosnia – Congress would not then have sanctioned it – though a small detachment was sent to the Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, which had seceded without entering the conflict. Clinton called for NATO air strikes and for the lifting of the arms embargo to help the Bosnians. But Britain and France rejected these proposals: the lives of their soldiers in the UN force would be at risk; hopelessly outnumbered, they had been sent in with inadequate means to defend themselves. Indeed, had the Serbians decided to attack the international peacekeepers it would have been difficult to extricate them. Thus the West, relying largely on bluff, had placed the UN contingents in an impossible position: for a short time they actually became hostages. The result was paralysis for three years and Western disunity. The most bloody and cruel phase of the conflict began when the wars spread to Bosnia. The president of Bosnia, Alija Izetbegovic, a devout Muslim who had been elected in 1990, recognised that, with the European Community’s recognition of independent Croatia and Slovenia in January 1992, all hopes of sustaining a federal Yugoslavia were lost. Radical Serbian and Croat minorities were already forming autonomous communities within his country. In January 1992 the Bosnian Serbs, led by a professor of psychiatry, Radovan Karadzic, proclaimed their own independent republic within Bosnia, receiving military help from Milosˇevic´. Four hundred thousand Muslims were driven out of the Bosnian selfstyled Republika Srpska. Serbia was in an overwhelming position of strength: the JNA was for all practical purposes now under Serbian control. Although the army had formally withdrawn from Bosnia (in May 1992) the Bosnian-Serb soldiers remained behind, well armed and professionally trained. Izetbegovic’s one hope was international help after April 1992, when the European Community also recognised Bosnia’s independence. But beyond humanitarian aid and ‘mediation’ none was forthcoming. However, on 30 May 1992, appalled by the atrocities committed by the Serbs in their campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’ the UN Security Council imposed sanctions isolating Serbia and its satellite partner Montenegro, which had remained in a rump Yugoslavia. These measures crippled Serbia’s economy but put no immediate pressure on Milosˇevic´ to withdraw. Conferences in London, discussions at the UN, advice from the Clinton administration, all fell short of recommending intervention by force. Britain and France were the biggest contributors to the UN force in Bosnia, bringing supplies of food and medicines to cities and towns suffering Serb bombardment; without a doubt this humanitarian effort saved tens of thousands of lives. In Mostar, in central Bosnia, a long and bitter struggle between Croats and Serbs began in 1992; the Serbs were defeated by a tactical alliance between Bosnian Muslims and Croats; once the Serbs had been ousted, the victors turned on each other. Such was the tangle of disintegrating Yugoslav alliances and alignments. The most dramatic evidence of the savagery of the war to reach the West was the siege of Sarajevo. During the first winter of the war in Bosnia in 1992 the civilian population of Sarajevo was exposed to Serb gunfire; essential medical and food supplies were dwindling. Apartment blocks, hotels, schools and hospitals were shelled and even mourners in graveyards were killed. The main thoroughfare of Sarajevo became a snipers’ alley. Had it not been for the UN convoys, which brought in a minimum of relief, the 415,000 inhabitants would have starved. Television journalism once again demonstrated its powerful influence over events. Pictures of devastation and carnage shocked people in the West, who became increasingly impatient at their governments’ apparent inability to stop the slaughter. Reprehensibly the West continued to enforce the UN arms embargo on all the republics. The effect of this was to block military supplies to Bosnia’s Muslims, while the Bosnian Serbs, despite the embargo, continued to secure plentiful arms from neighbouring Serbia; the Croatians obtained theirs clandestinely from the West. The embargo was so obviously one-sided that the conflict could only have ended if the Bosnian Muslims, the principal victims of aggression, had accepted that their struggle was hopeless. While the Serbs carried out the ethnic cleansing of the lands their troops had conquered – hundreds of thousands of refugees were driven into Croatia and beyond to Austria and Germany – governments in the West continued to insist they could only try to alleviate the humanitarian consequences of the conflict; the public was told that NATO air strikes would prove ineffective; intervention would mean sending in a large army. This was unthinkable: Bosnia was not the Gulf; no vital Western interests were at stake. This meant that the war would only stop when the Croats, Serbs and Bosnians agreed to end it. Izetbegovic, it was implied, should accept the situation and allow his republic to be partitioned. But the Muslims held on amid the daily killings in Sarajevo and in three eastern Bosnian towns, Srebrenika, Zepa and Gorazde, enclaves surrounded by Bosnian-Serb territory soon to become infamous as ‘safe areas’. The atrocities being committed by all parties, though largely by the Serbs and Croats, had by now so outraged public opinion that the Western governments, after more than two years of war, recognised that they had to be seen to be doing something more. In April 1993 Srebrenika, and later Sarajevo, Tuzla, Bihac, Zepa and Gorazde – all towns in Bosnia – were declared by the UN to be ‘safe areas’. It was assumed that this meant they would be under UN protection, but the UN had no intention of intervening to defend them by force: in international law ‘safe areas’ were not the same as ‘safe havens’; only the latter had a legal right to be properly defended. The public could not have been expected to understand such an arcane point, but the sense of outrage grew when the ‘safety’ of these areas proved to be a sham. Only Gorazde was to remain in Muslim hands. Nevertheless, economic sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro were tightened and increased the pressure on Milosˇevic´. May 1993 at last saw a glimmer of hope: Lord Owen’s advocacy and Serbia’s bankrupt state combined to persuade the Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian presidents to put their signatures to a plan to end the fighting. However, this was later repudiated by the Bosnian Serbs. It was evident that Milosˇevic´ could no longer control his former followers in Bosnia. The fighting raged on throughout 1993 and 1994. The Bosnian Muslims, who had managed to acquire some weapons, fought back. When a Serb mortar shell hit the market in Sarajevo in February 1994, adding sixty-nine more deaths to the 10,000 already killed during the siege, Western governments expressed their outrage. President Clinton again called for NATO intervention from the air but Britain and France still resisted. Further excuse for not using force against Serbia was raised: traditionally Russia was Serbia’s friend and a confrontation between the West and Serbia in Bosnia might force President Yeltsin to defend Serbia and so lead to a wider war. Actually it was absurd to suppose that Yeltsin, depending as he did on Western economic help to resolve his problems at home, would have risked a war with the West for the sake of Serbia. What was left? Eventually a NATO ultimatum was sent to the Serbs demanding that they withdraw their heavy weapons from the vicinity of Sarajevo. The Serbs complied only after Russian troops had agreed to occupy the vacated Serb positions. The public in the West again drew the wrong conclusion; the siege of Sarajevo was by no means over – it was merely enforced from a wider Serb-held perimeter. The Yugoslav wars were finally brought to an end through active American diplomacy and intervention. Decrying the policy followed by the European Community, but still unwilling to risk US lives, the Clinton administration devised a new strategy in 1993. It hinged on Croatia, whose army was being rebuilt, and on secret supplies to the Bosnian Muslims. Tudjman was encouraged to recover all the Croat lands lost to the Serbs and to form an alliance with the Bosnian Muslims against Serbia. The US promised to assist Croatia’s desire to integrate with the West; if it did not comply, however, Croatia would also be isolated and would face Serbia alone. In February 1994 the US brought about an agreement in Washington between Tudjman and Izetbegovic to form a Croatian–Bosnian federation. The UN and NATO remained as ineffectual as ever, but when in April 1994 the ‘safe area’ of Gorazde was threatened by the Serbs, NATO at last agreed to a token strike from the air. The bombing persuaded the Serbs not to press their attack and the enclave of Gorazde remained in Muslim control. In August the Bosnian Serbs were facing increasing isolation when they blocked yet another peace plan; Milosˇevic´, having lost control over the Bosnian Serbs, now broke with them publicly, although he could not afford to see them suffer military defeat. Then, finally, during the spring and summer of 1995 came the turning points that were to bring the fighting to an end. In May 1995 the Croatians attacked and rapidly overran western Slavonia, defeating the Serbs. Now it was the turn of Serb refugees to flee eastward. The Bosnian Serbs retaliated. In July General Ratko Mladic, the ruthless commander of the Bosnian-Serb army, captured the UN ‘safe area’ of Srebrenika. The Serbs massacred at least 7,000 Muslim men in the bloodiest single atrocity of the war. The fall of Srebrenika completed the humiliation of the UN. Furthermore, if NATO did not now respond it too would be discredited. The Bosnian-Serb military position was already deteriorating rapidly. In August the Croatian army overran the Krajina, causing 400,000 more Serb refugees to flee. ‘Ethnic cleansing’ in Bosnia achieved by murder, arson and terror was now, after four years of war, nearly complete. The UN was pushed aside by NATO, at last under firm American leadership, and during late August and early September 1995 it unleashed a devastating air attack on Bosnian- Serb military targets and communications. The US strategy was effective and revealed the weakness of earlier European policies. In October 1995, following their defeat by Croat-Muslim forces on the ground and by NATO’s air strikes, the Bosnian Serbs were forced, after a whirlwind round of American mediation, to the conference table at Dayton, Ohio. Richard Holbrooke, the tough US assistant secretary of state, persuaded Tudjman, Izetbegovic and Milosˇevic´ to agree to ‘proximity talks’ which would seek a compromise solution. They agreed to end the fighting. Under the Dayton Accord, concluded on 21 November 1995 and reached after much complicated bargaining, Bosnia was divided into two ‘entities’: a Bosnian-Serb republic and a Croat-Muslim federation (51 per cent Muslim and 49 per cent Serb). Under the Dayton Accord refugees were guaranteed the right to return to their homes, a provision that was a lost cause from the start. A NATO-led implementation force, IFOR (supported by US units), was sent to ensure that the agreement was carried out on the ground; suspected war criminals were to be arrested and tried by the International Tribunal set up at The Hague; at the head of the list of war criminals were Karadzic and General Mladic, both of whom were still in Bosnian-Serb territory in 2004. The principal culprit, Milosˇevic´ was left unharmed because ‘ethnic cleansing’ had created workable cohesive territories which are now populated overwhelmingly either by Muslims, Croats or Serbs. Thus the greatest wrong perpetrated by the wars also created the possibility of ending it. Croatia recovered Vucovar and eastern Slavonia, sending thousands of Serbs as refugees to Serbia. The Dayton peace terms have been supervised in Bosnia since 1996 by the 35,000-strong IFOR. It has been successful in policing the frontiers and preventing renewed bloodshed but not in enforcing other parts of the agreement such as the free movement of people, or the return of refugees to their homes; not all the principal war criminals have been apprehended. Milosˇevic´’s next victims of ‘ethnic cleansing’ were the Albanians in Kosovo. As long as Milosˇevic´ remained in power in Belgrade there could be no peace; Kosovo became the next flash point. The Dayton Peace Accords in 1995 had ignored the issue. Kosovo a province of Yugoslavia is inhabited by 1.8 million Kosovari ethnic Albanians and just 200,000 Serbs. Milosˇevic´ had risen to power on the back of beating the nationalist drum there. After Bosnia it became his last bloody repression. The Albanian nationalist movement led by Ibrahim Rugosa had demanded independence as Yugoslavia was breaking up, but Rugosa had no thought of resorting to violence. The militants prepared to fight were at first a small group, the Kosovan Liberation Army, KLA, founded in 1993 but of little significance until they acquired arms through Albania in 1997. Even so they were no match for the Serbs. Serb attempts to annihilate them, to counter sporadic attacks on their police and military, led to their committing brutal reprisals. From that point in 1998 the conflict escalated until a massive counter-attack by the Serbs drove the small number of fighters into the hills and with them a quarter of a million Kosovans fleeing in terror of their lives. The West could not simply stand by as a new wave of atrocities spread through the villages and towns, but Clinton thought he could achieve a solution through mediation and negotiation. Public opinion in Europe and the US was deeply divided. So diplomacy was tried. In February 1999 Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s secretary of state made a final effort. Kosovan Albanian and Serb delegates assembled at Rambouillet in the outskirts of Paris. Madeleine Albright tabled the American settlement terms, telling the Kosovans that if they did not sign them they would lose NATO support, and the Serbs that rejection would entail the use of force to expel them from Kosovo. The terms were tough. A referendum three years hence would decide the future of Kosovo. The Kosovar Albanians were unhappy and wanted immediate independence. For the Serbs the terms were humiliation. They were required to withdraw their military and police while Kosovo would be occupied by a peacekeeping NATO force. NATO troops would also enter the rest of Yugoslavia. The Kosovans reluctantly accepted, Milosˇevic´ rejected these terms. In the face of Russian objections NATO now went ahead to make good their threat. Fears that provoking the Russians could lead to a catastrophic widening of the conflict as some people warned, were groundless. President Yeltsin was dependent on the economic assistance of the US quite apart from being unable to threaten NATO’s forces convincingly. NATO began bombing the Serb military in Kosovo on 24 March 1999. The war had begun without resort to the United Nations where the Russian veto would have blocked action. Clinton expected the Serbs to submit quickly to the air war. But the Serbs did not withdraw. On the contrary they resorted to ethnic cleansing, massacring innocent civilians and driving 800,000 Kosovan ethnic Albanians across the borders of Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. Here they were housed and fed in makeshift refugee camp sites organised in Macedonia and Montenegro by NATO under UN auspices. The Albanians cared themselves for over 400,000 ethnic compatriots. Daily the sight of struggling men, women and children, fear and exhaustion etched on their faces horrified viewers as they watched the scenes on television. Hundreds of thousands more were displaced within Kosovo, no one knew how they kept alive. Bombing Serbs in Kosovo was not achieving the expected quick results. The German and Italian NATO allies were reluctant participants, the Czechs were opposed, the Russians, Serbia’s traditional protectors, had been against the war all along. For Britain’s prime minister Tony Blair on the other hand it was a moral imperative to act and not to permit a repeat of Nazi horrors of half a century earlier. Blair and the French president Chirac strongly supported the US which supplied most of the war effort in the air. As time went by Blair agonised. The war intended to rescue and help the Kosovars was having the opposite effect in human terms. Blair chaffed at the US military mission of striking at the Serbs from a height of 15,000 feet alone and urged plans to be made for a ground invasion. The Serbs should not be left with the certainty that NATO troops assembled in Macedonia would not under any circumstances invade and engage the Serbs. Clinton, however, ruled out a land war so incurring the risk of American battle casualties. The war would be won from the air alone. The air strikes were widened to strategic targets in Serbia’s capital, Belgrade. Power stations, oil installations, bridges, police headquarters, Milosˇevic´’s own private residence, the TV station, were all targeted. Serbia was brought to its knees but not without ‘collateral’ damage, warspeak for the unintended civilian casualties. Bombing the Chinese embassy by mistake was one of them, causing a rift in relations with China. In Europe public opinion became even more critical of the tactics used. But Serbia’s morale at the front in Kosovo began to crumble. Five thousand Serb conscripts lost their life many more were wounded. Some soldiers mutinied, just went home, their parents too began to demonstrate and Belgrade was without electricity. The final blow to Milosˇevic´ was the ‘desertion’ of Russia. But the Russians, in tough negotiations with NATO, had succeeded in softening the terms to be presented jointly to Milosˇevic´. Their support was essential if the war was to be brought to a halt. The Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari and the Russian mediator sent by Yeltsin, Victor Chernomyrdin took the terms to Belgrade. They were not negotiable. The biggest concession was that Yugoslavia would retain sovereignty over Kosovo, the referendum three years hence demanded at Rambouillet to determine the future was abandoned. Instead, Kosovars were promised a vague political autonomy, nor would NATO troops enter what was left of Yugoslavia. NATO troops would move into Kosovo under a UN mandate and the Russians would participate. For the Serbs, the bitter pill to swallow was that they had to pull out of Kosovo completely. Meanwhile, the Kosovar Liberation Army would be demilitarised. Milosˇevic´ was handed the terms on 2 June 1999. After a brief deliberation and the tame vote of Serbia’s parliament Milosˇevic´ gave in. The war came to an end 78 days after it began. The Serb army withdrew in good order and NATO and Russian troops followed on their heels. They began to establish some law and order over a country devastated by the Serbs and the war, helping to restore the semblance of normality. Five years later they are still there. Kosovo is too fragile to be left to organise itself. The refugees returned, many to find their homes devastated, some mourning relatives found in mass graves. As for Milosˇevic´, he did not remain in power for long. In October 2000 the opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica, who led a democratic uprising replaced Milosˇevic´ as president of rump Yugoslavia and Zoran Djindic was elected Serbia’s prime minister. Nationalism is not dead. After all, Serbia’s aggressions were not the work of one man but enjoyed popular support. The UN demanded the handing over of all those indicted for war crimes, mainly Croatians and Serbs, including Milosˇevic´, the West was refusing all aid to Serbia otherwise. In February 2002 Djindic reluctantly complied. By 2003 The Hague War Crimes Tribunal had put more than a hundred accused on trial, Milosˇevic´ the most prominent among them, but twenty-three Serbs and Croats including General Ratko Mladic, responsible for the butchery at Srebrenika, and Radovan Karadzic have been indicted but remain in hiding protected by the authorities. In 2003, Yugoslavia ceased to exist. Tensions between Serbia and Montenegro had flared up but were resolved by the formation of a loose union. Much remained to be done to restore normal conditions and rebuild the lives and economies of the people in Kosovo and the new republics. A generation after the death of Tito, the violent passions of nationalism destroyed a once prospering country where the different ethnic groups and nationalities once seemed to live with each other. The West had acted here in the heart of Europe as they would not in Africa. Moral imperatives are relative. In 2003 Serbia was in the grip of internal turmoil. The post-Milosˇevic´ government was faced with the opposition of all those who had profited under the Milosˇevic´ regime. Crime was rampant and at times the local Mafia dealing in drugs and extortion appeared more in control than the government. When Djindic attempted to suppress the criminals they assassinated him. The Milosˇevic´ legacy cast a long shadow over the country.