The Depressing Paradox of Bosnian Protests

Written by Milan Djurasovic   
Friday, 21 February 2014 10:42
A short review of how Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), with its own genius and the benevolence of the International Community, became a depressing paradox that it is today is essential in order to understand the protests that have been taking place for the past couple of weeks.
On 18 March 1994, the Washington Agreement was signed by the warring Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia and the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The signatories of the mentioned ceasefire agreement decided that dividing the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina held by the Bosnian Croats and Bosniacs into ten autonomous cantons which would comprise the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) was a better alternative to further bloodshed. Knowing that the chances of pacifying and reuniting the conflicting sides into a single functional state was impossible, most of the cantons were divided along the ethnic lines so that Croats would not be dominated by Bosniacs, and vice versa. Each of the cantons has its own government and a Premier. This continues to be the makeup of the FBiH, and it right away becomes clear how in the pell-mell of post-civil war Bosnia and Herzegovina, its complexity was conducive for looting and criminal privatization of what were once public assets. It is also important to mention that it is in the cantons populated mostly by Bosniacs that the protests have been taking place over the past couple of weeks.
Drafted in November and signed on 14 December 1995, the Dayton Agreement officially ended the Bosnian civil war. Signed by the worst of the bad guys of the Yugoslav wars -- Slobodan Milosevic, Alija Izetbegovic, Franjo Tudjman, and Bill Clinton -- one of the most notable principles of the Dayton agreement was the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina. 51% of the territory went to the already mentioned Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and 49% went to the Republic of Serbs (RS). It is also important to mention -- because it is often portrayed, misunderstood, and in most cases completely ignored in the Western media -- that Serbs in Bosnia had lived on the territory of what is now known as Bosnia and Herzegovina for centuries and had wanted to stay within the Yugoslav federation when the declaration of Bosnian independence on 3 March 1992 was proclaimed.
Unlike FBiH, the Republic of Serbs has a centralized government and no cantons, and, therefore, at least in theory, has a potential to be more functional than the Bosniac/Croat messy counterpart. Moreover, unlike the cantons in the Federation that have seen significant protests comprised of vandals and people with genuine social and political grievances, there were only small, peaceful gatherings of people in some of the cities of the RS. The explanation of such a low turnout of protesters in RS, despite the comparable corruption and privatization, can be found in the results of the poll taken by the Brussels-based Gallup Balkan Monitor in November 2010. The poll revealed that 88% of the residents of the RS support secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina while 70% of the residents of FBiH were against it.
Confused and resentful that the international factors from United States and Western Europe refuse to allow RS to secede while supporting the efforts of every other patch of the former Yugoslav federation to declare its independence, and considering the recent protests as another attempt to abolish the Dayton Agreement, and with it any trace of Serb autonomy within Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnian Serbs are rejecting the invitation of Bosniacs to join them in their fight against mass corruption, illegal privatization, and unemployment rate that exceeds 40%.
While working together against a common foe might seem like a long-awaited superordinate goal which would reunite the hopeless and tired people of all ethnicities and religions, we must be reminded that the side that is now calling for unity is the one that wanted to secede from Yugoslavia at all costs. This is only one out of many reasons why Bosnian Serbs are unwilling to cooperate. Most of the other reasons have to do with the international community’s accusations, vilification, and violence that were, and continued to be aimed almost exclusively at Serbs (disparity of the indictments and convictions at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the sanctions, and NATO bombing of RS forces, and Western media’s biased portrayal of the events to name a few), and which have, as the mentioned poll demonstrates, significantly contributed to the sense of entitlement of most Bosniacs to the entire territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
These and many other issues have been repressed and swept under the rug by the international community since the end of the Bosnian civil war. If any kind of reconciliation is ever going to take place in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, of course, must entail recognition of their crimes and culpability by all sides (including the incriminating roles played by the primarily Western superpowers, and their role in the continuing privatization of BiH assets), these issues must be addressed honestly and transparently.
It is because of these reasons that Serbs shrug their shoulders and say: “Here they go again,” whenever they read Western media reports which imply that the entire Bosnia is protesting its corrupt system -- the system which ironically has ‘made in America written all over it.’
Corruption, even hunger, is the price that Bosnian Serbs are willing to pay as long as there is a threat to their autonomy. Continued attempts by the international community to centralize the entire Bosnia are going to be met with additional resentment by not only Bosnian Serbs, but also Bosnian Croats who share their dissatisfaction with the imposed and dysfunctional union that is BiH.
Because any sincere and transparent discussion of the problems that were mentioned in this article is not going to take place in the near future, the only peaceful and viable solution is the dissolution of BiH into three parts according to the ethnic lines. For those who are going to be critical of this proposal, I would simply like to remind them that BiH has been ‘functioning’ this way since the end of the conflict. This would just make the current state of things official. Moreover, it would allow Bosniacs to abolish the dysfunctional cantons, to elect the government that will serve them rather than the domestic and foreign looters, and to recover their unjustly privatized industry. Finally, the elimination of the threat to their autonomy would also allow Bosnain Serbs and Bosnian Croats to do exactly the same. your social media marketing partner
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