By Soumya Trivedi, For The Miami Student
Twenty years ago this month, leaders from warring Balkan countries converged on southwest Ohio for meetings that would eventually spawn the Dayton Peace Accords and end the Bosnian War.
Nov. 16 to 18, Miami University will host a conference to celebrate the 20th anniversary of that agreement and honor the deep ties its faculty and students have developed with the region.
The conference will coincide with a much larger one taking place in Dayton, which former president Bill Clinton, who signed the Dayton Peace Accords on behalf of the United States, will attend.
The Dayton Peace Accords were drawn in 1995 at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, bringing an end to the Bosnian War that had plagued the former Yugoslav region for more than three years. The war broke out after dissolution of the Yugoslav federation in the early 1990s, when ethnic tensions fueled aggression and displacement in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia.
In 1995, the U.S. and other European countries stepped in to help end this war that had killed thousands. In November of that year, representatives from the United States, France, the United Kingdom., Germany and Russia, as well as the leaders of Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, gathered in Dayton. After weeks of negotiation, the Dayton Peace Accords were formally signed Dec. 14, 1995.
Miami has fostered deep connections with the Balkan states since the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords.
Since 2008, Miami journalism and international studies students have attended a study abroad program in Kosovo, a newly-independent Balkan country. The director of the international studies program, Carl Dahlman, even wrote a book about genocide in Bosnia.
Chair of the Media, Journalism and Film department, Richard Campbell, has personal ties with the Balkans — he is half Croatian.
When his father passed away in 2012, he asked his mother if she wanted to visit Croatia since she speaks the language and has been there only once. He then organized a trip to Croatia with his mom, his brother and a few of his cousins.
“There, we found that one of our cousins was married to Kićo Gegić, who was a child soldier in the battle of Vukovar in 1991,” Campbell said.
This semester, one of the journalism senior capstones focuses solely on the Dayton Peace Accords. Patricia Newberry, senior lecturer in journalism, and Bill Steiden, who is the senior editor for shared content at Cox media, co-teach the class.
Monica Komer, a student taking the capstone, said the class provides a venue for her to combine her interests.
“I’ve really enjoyed this class,” Komer said. “I’m majoring in International Studies and Journalism so I’ve really enjoyed that I’ve merged my two interests together, while also learning about an important event that took place in Dayton, Ohio, which is still relevant today.”
Both students and faculty have gained knowledge from this class.
“I have enjoyed it immensely. I’m learning something new and incredible every day about part of the world and the resilience of these people. It feels like we are running a mini news room in the class,” Newberry said. “We’re learning on a macro and micro level.”
Miami’s Dayton Peace Accords conference will feature three days of commemorative events.
Cartoon journalist Joe Sacco and graphic artist Zeina Abirached will kick off the conference with their talk “Drawing the Middle East” at 4 p.m. Nov. 16 in Wilks Theater. Later that day, photojournalist Ron Haviv will present “Propaganda, Media & Genocide: Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda” at 5:30 p.m. in Benton Hall 102.
On Nov. 17, a moderated forum will take place in Shriver, where conference panelists will join students in small-group discussions.
The next day, a series of panels in the Armstrong Pavilion will highlight the region’s history of conflict and resolution. Among others, the panel will feature Muhamed Sacirbey, former Bosnian ambassador to the United Nations, and Kićo Gegić, Campbell’s second cousin who was a child soldier in the battle of Vukovar.
The conference will end with the keynote speaker, Miami alumnus Kenneth Merten (’83), the former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, who will speak at 7:30 p.m in the Armstrong Pavilion.