Bosnian Security Firm Breaks Mould on Coexistence

Ex-combatants from rival warring factions say they are now model of ethnic tolerance.

Bosnian Security Firm Breaks Mould on Coexistence

Ex-combatants from rival warring factions say they are now model of ethnic tolerance.

Thursday, 26 August, 2010

The Banja Luka-based Sector Security firm is a thriving business with 1,000 employees and thousands of clients all over Bosnia.

What sets this security firm apart from most employers in Bosnia and Hercegovina is that 90 per cent of its staff are former combatants from bitterly-opposed factions that fought each other during the war of 1992-95.

The company hires Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats who took part in the conflict, but no longer view one another as enemies. Many say they serve as an example to the rest of Bosnia, especially to politicians who claim that the three groups cannot live together after everything that happened during the conflict.

Established ten years ago, Sector Security has 4,000 clients throughout the country and offices in Banja Luka, Mostar, Sarajevo, Zenica, Bijeljina and Brcko.

Slavisa Krunic, a Bosnian Serb from Banja Luka who founded and owns the company, said the fact that his staff came from different sides – and different armies – had never posed a problem.

“Today, these people work together without any difficulties. I’ve never noticed any animosity amongst them,” he said. “We are proof that peaceful coexistence in Bosnia and Hercegovina is possible, despite our recent past. I strongly disagree with our political leaders who keep saying in the media that such coexistence is impossible.”

Ramiz Becirevic, a Bosniak who served as a lieutenant-colonel in the Bosnian government army during the war, also said there had never been any trouble over ethnic issues in the company.

“It makes me very happy that we who directly participated in the war, who fought one another other, can work together like this,” he said. “That makes me wonder why our politicians can’t follow suit. There are of course people who can’t understand this, especially those living in the areas where war crimes were committed, because they still find it hard to trust members of other ethnic groups.”

Becirevic believes that everyone in Bosnia has to find a way to deal with the violence of the past and move forward, as he and his colleagues have done.

“We are the ones who participated directly in the war, and yet we are able to cooperate, work together, and in a way forgive each other,” he said.

His colleague Zoran Brankovic was also a lieutenant-colonel, but in the Bosnian Serb army. Decorated and wounded twice during the war, today he heads a legal department at Sector Security.

Brankovic said the war was not a taboo subject amongst the agency’s employees, although they did not talk about it often.

“We do talk about the recent war occasionally, although it usually comes down to retelling some anecdotes and jokes, rather than initiating serious discussions on the subject,” he said.

“One of the reasons why we don’t discuss the war so often is that we care more about the future than the past. Unfortunately, we were all victims in the war. None of us gained anything from it, so that may be what keeps us together.”

Krunic said the agency always checked whether prospective candidates had a criminal record or were suspected of involvement in war crimes.

"War criminals won’t get anywhere near us, let alone join our team,” he said. “We always conduct a thorough investigation when we hire new people, especially for leading positions in our company.”

Another director of Sector Security, Zlatko Grzibovski, was a member of the third force involved in the conflict, the Bosnian Croat army known as the HVO.

These days he lives and works in Mostar, scene of bitter fighting during the war. Like his colleagues, Grzibovski would like to see wider society in Bosnia adopt the same principles as the company he works for – tolerance and mutual respect.

“I find it really difficult to explain the situation in Bosnia and Hercegovina to people who don’t live here,” he said. “In my view, all the problems we face today are caused by politicians who fail to see that all that people in this country want is to exist in peace and make a living from their work.”

Marija Arnautovic is an IWPR-trained reporter in Sarajevo.

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