Mohamed Beshir Hamid

Happy Hour 4

UN Civil Affairs, Bihac Region 


Double Occupant Cows


“We’ve a crisis on our hands”, Baron Radoukov said tersely on the phone.


Now the Baron has this annoying habit of calling me, just as I am about to take the first sip of my first morning coffee, to report one crisis or another in Canton 10, thus spoiling my taste for coffee and ruining the rest of my day.


“Before you say anything,” I replied, “are you on a secure line?”

“Of course,” he said a bit offended, “this is the new line especially installed for us by the Livno PTT office”.


I gave a sigh of relief. Good old Zahary! Since he recently converted to monarchism and styled himself a Baron (claiming unconvincingly that the new King of Bulgaria bestowed the title) his security awareness has attained new heights.


I decided to make a few guesses of the nature of the new crisis.


“Livno municipality’s Odjel za Graditeljstvo has sent a team to dismantle the bridge on the Drina and move it to Livno, is that it?”


“I reported that last week, yes?” he said, “but this one is more serious”.


“Tom Kile hasn’t put a bullet into Cosic’s head, has he?”


“Well,” the Baron replied, “he was talking about it last night but we convinced him that he needed something larger than a bullet to get through Cosic’s steel-plated skull. He wasn’t sure SFOR would lend him a bazooka so he placed an order with the National Rifle Association’s local branch in Georgia”.


Good grief! With a bazooka the guy would wipe out the entire MUP. And to think that I stuck out my neck recommending an extension for him. I could only hope that the American time-dishonoured policy of arms embargo to Bosnia is still holding.


“Don’t tell me, Baron” I said making my third guess, “that Colonel Thompson’s tanks have strayed again into a minefield?” 


“They’re doing that now on a regular daily basis, so it’s no longer news,” the Baron replied, “by my reckoning, they’ll run out of tanks and APCs by the end of the month. The Colonel tells me they expect replacements by 3008, yes?”


“Has the crisis then something to do with our friends in OHR and OSCE insisting on a coup d’etat to remove the present HDZ government and establish a Hague-like tribunal to try Jelavic and company?”


“No,” the Baron reassured me “not after I held a press conference and praised the Livno government as a fine example of multi-ethnic and multi-party democracy, yes? I told OHR and OSCE that instead of being negative, they should help us replicate similar governments in all other Cantons and the RS as well. I told them in no uncertain terms that if they wanted our honest opinion, the principle of self-rule should not only be implemented here but also exported beyond BiH borders. Why shouldn’t the Confederate flag be officially re-hoisted on Atlanta city hall? Tom is very adamant about this. He’s so furious with Cosic for displaying the Federation flag instead of the sahovnica; that’s why he wants to blow out his brains. After all, where would the Balkans be now without the Wilsonian notion of ‘self-determination’, yes?” 


I shook my head in disbelief pondering the many lessons that Canton 10 could teach to the outside world. The British should have never allowed the Americans to get away with that Boston tea party. No taxation without representation, my foot! Look at those HDZ wizards siphoning all the Cantonal financial resources and yet able to come up with an honestly compassionate, popularly representative and universally beloved administration. Compare that to the French self-destructive impulses in making life miserable for themselves and their democratically elected President over some minor financial transactions, just as the Germans tarnished their own image and that of the best Chancellor they had since Bismarck over some lousy foreign donations. Talk about wasting national resources? Look at the British making bonfires out of all that livestock, the fools. HDZ authorities would have sold the whole lot to Canton 1 and made a killing, literally.  The mind boggles at these lost opportunities.


My thoughts were interrupted by the Baron shouting “Hallo, are you still there, yes?” I told him that I was. I could hear a sigh of relief as he said, “I was afraid we got disconnected, yes? Our friends in the Livno PTT have assured me this line will never break down and even if it does, they’ll provide us with tapes which keep recording even when the line is down”. My admiration for the Baron’s negotiating skills went two notches higher.


“Look Zahary, I give up. What’s the crisis?”


After politely reminding me to use his official title, he said gravely “we’ve two double occupant Croat cows in Kupres. UNHCR reconstructed their barn in Bugojno with running water, electricity supply and plenty of hay but, despite our pleas, they refuse to budge.”


This was shattering news to me as Croats had made an art of voluntarily vacating illegally occupied premises. The long queue of double occupants waiting for hours, come hail or fire, to hand over the keys of apartments has stressed to the limit the resources of Housing Commissions in Drvar, Bosanski Grahovo, Glamoc, Kupres and other places. And now two bloody cows are setting a very dangerous precedent.


“Has eviction papers been served on the cows?”

“Yes,” the Baron replied, “they ate them!”

Holy cow! I thought, this is the ultimate defiance. But worse was still to come.

“Has the LP tried forcible eviction?”


“Yes,” the Baron answered, “four are in the hospital with broken ribs and legs; one is in critical condition; six sustained minor injuries and have requested redeployment to Britain where they say they’ll be safer with the real ‘mad cow’ variety. One IPTF monitor received a vicious kick in the groin which the doctor says is likely to affect”. the Baron, ever the perfect gentleman, paused apparently searching for the right phrase, “shall I say likely to affect some marital-like activities, yes?”. Another pause before he added politely “I’m glad, sir, it wasn’t you or Tom Kargbo”. Or you too Zahary? I thought. I don’t know about you Tom old feller, but boy, am I glad it wasn’t me!


I asked if SFOR could help with the eviction. “Not with all those tanks stranded in the minefields” he observed.


“Is there any way of enticing the cows out? Getting one of those Spanish bulls standing outside, you know, and making certain overtures?” I asked delicately.

“We tried that,” said the Baron, “but the bull took one look at the cows before he made a mad dash all the way back to his Madrid bull fighting arena”.

“Look, Baron” I said decisively, “we can’t afford to let this kind of behaviour spreading to infect Bosniac and Serb cows. It would be worse than the ‘foot and mouth’ epidemic. Get one of those tranquilizer dart-guns they used to immobilize Milosevic before they packed him off to the Hague, and then transport the cows back to their reconstructed barn in Bugojno. But, Baron, make sure only the British SAS do the job. We don’t want a repeat of the 4 April fiasco with these cows chasing the MSU all over the Canton!”


Before the Baron replied, there was a sound of a door opening and then I could hear what sounded like a heated conversation in the background. After what seemed ages, the Baron was back on the line.


“I’m afraid we can’t do that. A friendly delegation of HDZ Association for the Care and Protection of Animals is now in the office reciting to me the animus corpus of cowo sapiens…”


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