Thursday, December 2, 2021

Bosnia and Herzegovina: World leaders risk renewed violence if country falls apart

A quarter century since the end of the Bosnian War, Bosnia and Herzegovina is in a perilous state. The people living there are worried. After all, the conflict that broke out in the country between 1992 and 1995 left more than 100,000 people dead or missing. About 8,000 of them men and boys were killed in the massacre that followed the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995.

Since the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords and the end of the war, much has been done to resolve the legacy of widespread violence. Many of the missing people have been found. Those responsible for killing, raping and beating thousands of people were prosecuted and jailed.

However, it seems that what has been achieved is not enough. Now fears are growing that violence may flare up again.

Serebrenica-Potokari Memorial and Cemetery for the Victims of the 1995 Genocide.
mirjavis/alami stock photo

state of laxity

Since late 1995, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been mired in a dysfunctional constitutional system. The peace agreement created two entities: Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Together with the small but strategically located Broc District, these constitute the nation state.

The federation is jointly run by representatives of Bosniaks (formerly known as Bosnian Muslims) and Bosnian Croats. The establishment of an independent Republika Srpska, meanwhile, was a political project conceived and championed by former leaders Radovan Karadi and General Ratko Mlai with their sponsors in Serbia. The latter includes Slobodan Milosevic, who provided the money and weapons needed to wage the war.

Karadzik and Mladik were convicted of life in prison for crimes committed in The Hague in pursuit of their territorial and demographic ambitions. During the armed campaign to create this independent Republika Srpska, which would be free of non-Serbs, several terrible crimes were committed.

The system established under the Dayton Accords ended the war but left the country divided. This gave impetus to politicians to fan the flames of caste tensions and made it possible for them to indulge in widespread corruption without losing office.

Meanwhile, the international community – primarily the US and the European Union – has gradually lost interest in funding state-building efforts in the region. Several commitments were made in the immediate aftermath of the conflict, but since that time, crises in Syria, Ukraine and, most recently, Afghanistan have required both a response and resources.

This has seen promises to integrate Bosnia and Herzegovina into the European Union lose momentum. For the last 15 years there is no vision, no enthusiasm, no hope of a better future. Recently, the country’s COVID-19 response has made it painfully clear that the state has become useless with fatalities.

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threat of a new army

In this complex context, Bosnian Serb leaders, primarily the long-dominant politician Milorad Dodi, have escalated tensions by threatening to establish a Bosnian Serb army, pull out of United States institutions – effectively abolishing the state – and independence. to announce Dodik’s plans threaten to destroy the system that keeps Bosnia together and at peace.

The last time the Nationalists tried to create an independent Republika Srpska, there was bloodshed and widespread, systematic persecution of non-Serb communities. The Bosnian Serb army was the force that shelled and killed the citizens of Sarajevo for four years. Its security and intelligence officers were largely behind the Srebrenica massacre.

Criminal accountability at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, as well as in courts across the country, was supposed to provide justice and detention. Bosnians facing this current crisis are not feeling confident. Trials to bring war criminals to justice have slowed in recent years, leaving murderers and rapists at large.

In early 2022, it would have been 30 years since the original version of Republika Srpska emerged as a result of a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide. The approach of that anniversary, coupled with the broader geopolitical context – with the US, UK and EU disengaged and an upbeat Russia – makes for a worrying winter. Russia is encouraged by experiences in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, where it has expanded influence and control through cooperation with local actors. Analysts believe it may do so by backing the plans of the Bosnian Serb.

This context is complicated by recent tensions in the region along the border with Kosovo. And in Montenegro, there are concerns about a radical community wanting closer ties with Serbia.

The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina remember the early 1990s. Many of them felt left out without reason by the international community, who watched the evening news as Bosnians were rounded up, their property looted or burned in camps, and in Sarajevo. There were shots fired by snipers from the surrounding hills.

This crisis, as the culmination of years of decay, is a call to action to ensure a fair path, without violence, and with security and prosperity for all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, regardless of background. For that, local political will and commitment are important. But even before that, what Bosnia and Herzegovina desperately needs now is the attention of foreign politicians and a sense that someone – anyone – is in a position to help.

This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

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