Bosnia's dark days - a cameraman reflects on war of 1990s

CBC cameraman Louis Deguise made more than 20 trips to Bosnia-Herzegovina during the 1992-95 civil war. In two video interviews with, he describes the challenges of filming the chaos and human suffering of war.

Bosnia Remembered

10 years ago
Duration 3:09
CBC Cameraman Louis Deguise reflects on his assignments in Bosnia

This spring marks the 20th anniversary of the start of the four-year civil war between Serbs, Croats and Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

What began with a declaration of independence by Bosnian Muslims and Croats, who voted in a March 1992 referendum to separate from Yugoslavia, ended in a bloody ethnic conflict that killed close to 100,000 people.

Bosnian Serbs boycotted the referendum, and once the international community acknowledged a sovereign Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Yugoslav army withdrew from the territory, Serb paramilitary forces moved to take control of the newly independent state, starting with its capital, Sarajevo.

Serbian forces, under the command of Radovan Karadzic, who is currently on trial for war crimes in The Hague for his part in the war, lay siege to the city, which prided itself on its multiethnic population and cosmopolitan character.

They held its population hostage for 44 months, relentlessly shelling the city from the surrounding hills and cutting off food and other supplies as they battled with the poorly equipped forces of the newly formed Bosnian government. Sarajevo's only lifeline to the outside world was the airport, which the fighting sides ceded to a group of United Nations peacekeepers initially commanded by Canadian Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie.

Journalists from all over the world risked their lives to report on the siege of Sarajevo and the ethnic clashes that broke out throughout Bosnia. One of them was Louis Deguise, a CBC cameraman based in Berlin at the time who made more than 20 trips to Bosnia over the course of the war, working mainly with CBC correspondent Anna Maria Tremonti.

Deguise, who today is based in CBC's Washington bureau, was no stranger to armed conflict. He had already covered wars in Cyprus, Vietnam and Lebanon as well as the fall of Communism in Russia in 1991 and the protests in China's Tiananmen Square in 1989. He would go on to document civil wars in Algeria and Rwanda and the conflict in Afghanistan.

In two interviews with (see above), Deguise describes what it was like to work amid the chaos, devastation and human suffering of the Bosnian war.