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[Yugoslavia Memory of a disaster] 84 French peacekeepers died in Bosnia… We forget it!

PoliceFrenchHOmmag2569a.jpg(BRUSSELS2 In Sarajevo) 84 French soldiers died in the former Yugoslavia, engaged in blue helmets or other interposition forces. We forget it too often.

In fact, in the Yugoslav wars which caused nearly 100.000 civilian and military deaths, the blue helmets and other international observers also paid a heavy price. France in the lead. Often for lack of political courage and with a narrow mandate. Imposing peace without firing or retaliating against enraged people playing Slavic roulette with their opponents was impossible to hold.

"We shoot or we shoot”

During his visit to Sarajevo yesterday, for the EU-Balkans Summit, the Secretary of State for European Affairs, Pierre Lellouche, wanted to lay a wreath in front of the stele placed near the French embassy and which commemorates these soldiers who died for peace. A certain moment of emotion during the minute of silence (several committed French soldiers were there) and a sort of personal commitment for the man who was from 1989 to 1995, Jacques Chirac's “diplo advisor” at Paris City Hall . When he remembers this time, Lellouche still shudders “ I was green. And I'm still sick of seeing what was happening at the time: some people's bags of rice, the lyrical flights of the BHL and others. While our guys were being shot like rabbits. I was one of those to advise Chirac: “we shoot, or we shoot”. » 

When Jacques Chirac came to power in May 1995, he broke with Mitterrand's policy of balance and decided to return blow for blow. “ The time of helplessness is over » he declares. He obtained the agreement of the British “ In a few weeks, with the support of John Major, it was settled » recalls Pierre Lellouche. And indeed, a few weeks later, the French peacekeepers took action, without the green light from the UN command.

15 years ago, when theSteleHelmetsBlueCrownFlowers2570a-copy-1.jpgs French peacekeepers take action

It was, in fact, 15 years ago now… On May 27, 1995, history changed in the Balkans. The men of the 3rd Rima, engaged in UNPROFOR, have just had 12 of their number taken hostage who were guarding the Vrbanja (Verbania) bridge in Sarajevo. These are just some of the 300 peacekeepers taken hostage by the Serbs in response to the first major UN bombings. But it's too much for the French.

The French general Gobilliard who commands the Sarajevo sector of the blue helmets decides to reply, without waiting for any authorization from UNPROFOR HQ and even from Paris, he launches a section of the 3rd Rima " The Forbans » to the attack (1). The “marines” had 2 killed and 17 wounded. But the Serbs accept the “hostages for prisoners” exchange. This tactical victory constitutes one of the turning points of the war...

The stele in tribute to the French peacekeepers who died for Bosnia near the French embassy (© NGV)

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

For further :

– Retex Video (2003) testimony of Captain Lecointre

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

2 thoughts on “[Yugoslavia Memory of a disaster] 84 French peacekeepers died in Bosnia… We forget it!"

  • From Sarajevo to “Ouest-France” (via Brussels 2) there is only one step:

    Several years ago, the Nantes group Tri Yann wrote a sublime song “la geste de Sarajevo” in tribute to the French soldiers who died on Sniper Alley and more generally in this war. An extraordinary version of this piece was recorded in concert with the no less extraordinary Orchester National des Pays de la Loire (in Nantes – note that in Nantes, the main square of the city, formerly Place du Commerce, is now called Sarajevo Square).

    You can listen to music here

    And check the lyrics here

    It's been years now that I've dreamed that French filmmakers would have the idea and the courage to make a great action film on the recovery of the Vrbanja bridge, in the same sauce as the fall of the black falcon, so that the memory of our country know that indeed, just yesterday, high intensity combat, with heavy artillery and bayonets, in Europe, existed and involved French people, some of whom died, and very often because of pacifist illusions and inapplicable ROE.

  • Recall that Slobodan Milosevic died before the end of his trial, that Radovan Karadzic is still not judged and that Ratko Mladic always short. All three are charged by the ICTY with genocide and crimes against humanity (among other major charges).

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