Bosnia-Herzegovina: 1992 - 2007
New Zealand was one of the nations approached to contribute to the United Nations Protection Force in the former Yugoslavia.
The New Zealand Government agreed to send four military observers to serve there. In March 1992, the four observers, two from Army, and one each from the RNZN and the RNZAF arrived in the Former Yugoslavia.
They were later joined by five more Kiwi military observers. The observers performed a wide variety of tasks in what was a very hostile environment. One, LTCOL Richard Gray played an important part during 1992 in negotiating an agreement which aimed at putting all heavy weapons in and around Sarajevo under United Nations supervision. Two were seriously injured while serving with UNPROFOR.
The NZ Army’s peace support operations in the Balkans spanned more than a decade. New Zealand's 15-year long commitment to Bosnia-Herzegovina began with UN observers who were reinforced in 1992, with the first deployment of Kiwi combat troops since the Vietnam War. In 1994, following a tenuous peace agreement in a multi-factional war, the first of three reinforced rifle companies was sent from New Zealand to Bosnia-Herzegovina
Although each rifle company was attached to a British Regiment it took with it an impressive (at the time), assortment of kit – 25 armoured personnel carriers, Unimog trucks, land rovers, field kitchens and containers of equipment.
After the last of these rifle companies returned home the NZDF continued to maintain a presence in Bosnia to encourage stability, the rule of law and good governance and growth.
In the latter years of the mission the NZDF deployed personnel to Prijedor, a predominantly Serbian town in the north west of the country where they formed a liaison observation team which was part of a British and Dutch-led force.
Three New Zealand Army personnel were also based at Banja Luka, 45 km from Prijedor and were part of a team which oversaw the dozen or so multi-lateral liaison observation teams working throughout the region.
In 2007, New Zealand’s 15-year long commitment to the troubled Balkan state ended.
The New Zealand flag was lowered on June 29 at a ceremony in Sarajevo, officially ending the Kiwi involvement in the international peace-keeping effort in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“But despite the lack of experience in similar situations, the Kiwi approach worked. The troops were armed, but rather than use firepower to decide issues, they put their best effort into unravelling the complexities that motivated each group - no easy task in a land mass that has experienced centuries of conflict.” – Major General Dave Gawn.