By Jusuf Ramadanovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 25/08/08
Next month, through its ministry of foreign affairs, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) will formally request that the OSCE financially support urgent plans to destroy surplus weapons and ammunition located in the country.
BiH's armed forces have between 25,000 and 30,000 tonnes of surplus ammunition (shells, grenades and bullets), which must be destroyed as soon as possible, as well as 100,000 rifles they consider surplus. Civilians also have a formidable arsenal in homes.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) in BiH commissioned two studies on this issue in 2003 and 2004, indicating that the high levels of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) in civilian possession and BiH's military surplus pose a significant threat to public safety. The UNDP SALW survey also estimated that 19% of BiH's population of 5 million possess SALW. In addition, 16 % possess the weapons illegally.
Currently, the UNDP's Small Arms Control and Reduction Project in BiH (SACBiH), established in early 2005 in co-ordination with BiH authorities, is destroying some SALW at the Pretis factory outside Sarajevo. The disposal capacity there is only 100 tonnes per year, a pace at which BiH would need 25 years to eliminate this menace.
"The OSCE Mission to BiH has voiced readiness to provide financial support to projects to establish operations at a number of locations in our country aimed at destruction of surplus weapons and ammunition," Joint BiH Parliamentary Defence and Security Commission member Adem Huskic said.
He said the UNDP plan calls for multiple locations in BiH to obtain SALW destruction facilities and for relevant personnel to receive supplemental training.
The plan is to expand capacity at the Pretis factory, as well as the military-technical factory in Doboj, which would require 366,000 euros to modernise and upgrade, and the Binas factory in Bugojno, which would require 103,000 euros. The plan also includes installing incineration and detonation facilities on Mt. Manjaca and in Glamoc, which would cost 145,000 euros.
A separate challenge is securing the former Vitezit factory in Vitez, which would take 293,000 euros. The defunct factory still contains 250 tonnes of explosives, which pose a potential threat to the central Bosnian town and its surroundings.
In addition to the surplus weapons held by the military, widespread weapon ownership by the population is a problem. Since 1998, in co-operation with local authorities, international organisations in BiH have been conducting the Harvest project to collect illegal weapons and ammunition. So far, authorities have amassed 60,000 items of SALW from private citizens in BiH. At this pace, Harvest's mission would require another 80 years.