11 April 1994 – France Inter – Rony Brauman, MSF: Gorazde – FRENCH



Annette Ardisson: Hello Rony Brauman. You have teams in Gorazde and in Kigali, the world’s biggest hot spots this morning. In Gorazde, NATO has executed its threat of airstrikes against the Serb forces. Isn’t this yet again a case of too little, too late?

Rony Brauman: As Bernard Guetta commented, it has to be said that they’re life-savers. The airstrikes were launched just when we, especially our team on the ground, feared a massacre comparable to the one in Vukovar, the town in Croatia. In November 1990, it was literally crushed and flattened after a siege that had lasted several weeks. That’s exactly what’s happening now and the NATO planes that have turned up, I think, have averted a massacre. But obviously it’s late in the day as it’s been two weeks now that, day in, day out, the Serb forces have been advancing, taking positions, flattening villages while terrified refugees have been pouring into Gorazde in search of sanctuary.

Annette Ardisson: Can this show of force, well this willingness to make a show of force, be effective in the medium or long-term?

Rony Brauman: I don’t know, but what I do know is that the latest news I got really early this morning was sent from the region at midnight. The fighting has started up again, and there’s as much bombing as there was during the day yesterday. So we really get the impression that, as Bernard Guetta was saying, there’s a test at stake, but it isn’t over yet.

Annette Ardisson: So an extra push might be needed.

Rony Brauman: It feels like an extra push might be what’s needed. But it’s not my job to call for a war or for airstrikes. I simply want this first strike, that’s been justified strangely enough not by the collapse of an agreement on the safe areas but by the risk facing the UN forces – the eight poor UN guys who are also getting bombed in Gorazde.

Annette Ardisson: Although it’s an area under UN protection and so they’re entitled to retaliate?

Rony Brauman: It’s a safe area, but the point of law UNPROFOR invoked to explain its airstrikes is not the collapse of the safe area or the attack against the civilian population but the threat facing the eight UNPROFOR people there. Well, they’re more UN people because they aren’t really with UNPROFOR. So I’m speculating and wondering if it’s going to be enough for the Serb forces and the forces in general, to spare the UN people and be satisfied with, so to speak, “massacring civilians in order to advance like a knife cutting through butter.” That’s what UNPROFOR seems to be saying; that’s the incitement being floated in Bosnia.

Annette Ardisson: Listening to you, aren’t you concerned that the airstrikes are compromising the safety of your teams?

Rony Brauman: Of course I am. I remember Vukovar when we evacuated in extremis around one hundred casualties. The people we left behind and the local medical teams were massacred mercilessly, so yes, I think anything is possible.

Annette Ardisson: We misunderstand each other. I meant the airstrikes. Isn’t there a risk of revenge?

Rony Brauman: No, I don’t think so.

Annette Ardisson: I’ve just been handed a dispatch. It would seem Boris Eltsine is calling for a meeting of the Security Council. He explains that issues such as the bombing of Serb positions cannot be resolved without first consulting the United States and Russia. What do you think of that? You’re not a politician but you are hands-on. Does it mean that NATO will be prompted to more caution?

Rony Brauman: You’re quite right when you say I’m not a political analyst so I don’t really want to comment. I just remember that, when the ultimatum was presented, we saw similar posturing so I’m wondering if it’s just for show.

Annette Ardisson: Are there other towns in the same position as Gorazde at the moment?

Rony Brauman: No, Gorazde is the town facing the biggest threat. What is certain is that, should by any misfortune Gorazde fall to the Serb forces tomorrow, the status of all the safe areas would be compromised. Not Sarajevo of course, which is one of the six, because while its fate is not completely decided, the town is relatively well protected. But we can well imagine how all the enclaves are about to fall like a house of cards. Indeed, the road connecting east Bosnia to the various enclaves is already under Serb control and the wounded are mostly in K pocket. Again, it’s not just Gorazde, there are several villages in the south and east of the pocket that have been pounded for days on end. We think, but don’t actually know because we haven’t been to get to them, that there are many casualties. But because of the situation nobody can get to them, so the wounded are dying because they don’t dare go to Gorazde. The road is too dangerous, it’s under a constant barrage of Serb fire. In other words, small pockets are being established, tiny Bantustans, small Muslim reservations in this totally Serb area and I have no idea, whatever the outcome of what’s going on now, of the fate awaiting these enclaves.

Annette Ardisson: That’s political acceptance of the situation.

Rony Brauman: Indeed it is.