7 February 1994 – France Inter – Rony Brauman, MSF: Sarajevo – FRENCH



Rony Brauman: Nothing’s changed in Sarajevo. The siege has already lasted 22 months. A few weeks after it began, timid voices were heard saying that what mattered most was loosening the murderous stranglehold that was throttling Sarajevo. Nothing has been done since, apart from delivering food to people who are being asphyxiated little by little. On Friday, we saw a particularly big explosion but basically, there’s nothing new. After 22 months, you get a bit cynical and disillusioned, so I’m ready to bet that there’ll be nothing new in the reactions that emerge during the next few days.

Journalist: But, Rony Brauman, as a humanitarian worker, what needs to be done there? Should there be more humanitarian aid? Should we help Sarajevo? Is military intervention required?

Rony Brauman: Listen, it’s not up to a humanitarian organisation to dictate political strategy, and definitely not on military issues, to governments who have a fundamental responsibility in these kinds of situations. A Médecins Sans Frontières team stepped up because we have a permanent team there. All they and the other organisations could do was pick up the pieces. It was so depressing, we emptied our stocks, we took everything to Kosovo hospital so that local surgeons could operate. They’re excellent surgeons but they never have enough resources, so we’ve been delivering drugs and equipment and more are on their way. All this is indispensable, but at the same time, derisory. Because it’s indispensable, we do what we’re supposed to do, and derisory, because we know how ludicrous it is treating people who are gong to be bombed all over again tomorrow. So what I’m calling for… In fact, we’ve been talking with all the humanitarian aid agencies on the ground and this year Médecins du Monde, Handicap International and other such organisations have sent an ironic greetings card to the great and good in Europe and the world telling them we’re expecting them to assume their responsibilities and not to conduct themselves like humanitarian organisations.

Journalist: Rony Brauman, if it’s not your responsibility and not up to you to take the decisions, what exactly are you hoping for from government leaders?

Rony Brauman: What I want is from them is that they take the necessary measures to release the stranglehold. These measures will of course be gesticulation (in the noble sense of the term), a show of determination while ensuring that any action undertaken reflects the rhetoric. Regrettably, the Serbs, like the rest of us, see that every time a decisive measure is announced, nothing concrete happens because nothing is done to enforce it – whether it be an issue of over-flights, movement of humanitarian convoys, evacuating refugees or safe areas. Two months ago I was in Srebrenica, one of the six safe areas established by the UN several months ago, and there’s nothing safe about it. On a daily basis our surgeons perform surgery on the wounded and bury the dead because the airstrikes are continuing there and on all the other safe areas. In case anyone’s forgotten, Sarajevo’s also a safe area – as we’ve seen in the past few days. So, in the face of this masquerade, all that’s left to us is to yell and scream our outrage and denounce the hypocrisy. Just tell us if there’s something to be done in Bosnia and, if there is, do it. But, if there’s nothing to be done, we’ll draw the appropriate conclusions regarding political capability – as much as at the international as at the European level.

Journalist: Does the government have a position on the issue? Well, position is perhaps not the right word. Is there any particular line of thought among the political establishment that strikes a cord with you?

Rony Brauman: No, because there’s some quite extraordinary manoeuvring going on. No sooner does yesterday’s warmongering opposition get into government than they declare they’re unable to do anything whatsoever as apparently none of the requisite conditions are satisfied. This may be the case but I’m not in a position to judge. And all those who were in power before could talk about was humanitarian action and large-scale deployment of aid. They very clearly did not want to get involved politically. Well, now they’re saying they’ve had it with this humanitarian approach and the order of the day has become political intervention and the means to achieve it. So, basically, in power or in opposition, the rhetoric and the viewpoints switch but the end result stays the same. […]

Journalist: There’s talk of aerial intervention and mention was made several days ago of pulling out all the peacekeepers over the next few weeks. Do you consider this to be the worst-case scenario for the people on the ground?

Rony Brauman: Yes, pulling out the peacekeepers, especially from Sarajevo but from some of the other towns too, would be an absolute disaster. Because if Sarajevo is continuing to survive (and the international community can at least take credit for that), it’s due solely to the presence of the peacekeepers and the UN airlift that delivers several hundred tons of food a day. So we’re trapped in a kind of spiral, from which, in my opinion, we don’t want to extricate ourselves. Humanly speaking, you can’t pull the peacekeepers out of Sarajevo; it’s just not possible.