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    In this photo taken on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. Bosnian man passes by flags of Bosnia's Serb mini state Republic of Srpska and t-shirt with photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Bosnian town of Banja Luka, 240 kms (150 miles) northwest of the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo

    As People Prepare For Polls Has Dayton Agreement 'Set Bosnia Up For Disaster'?

    © AP Photo / Radivoje Pavicic
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    In October this year elections will be held in the two separate ethnic entities in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Sputnik spoke to a Bosnian and a Serb about the future of the nation 23 years after the Dayton Peace Agreement brought to an end three years of ethnic-based war.

    The Dayton Agreement, which was drawn up in 1995 after more than three years of war being Bosniaks (mainly Muslim Bosnians), ethnic Serbs and Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina, has managed to keep the peace for 23 years.

    But elections in October in the federal nation's two constituent parts — the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina — could put strains on the agreement.

    Ljiljan Kotromanic, a US citizen of Bosniak origin, said he expected ethnic nationalists to win both polls and he said the agreement cannot survive in its current state without "international protection".

    'Treaty Of Versailles For Bosnia'

    "The Dayton Agreement is the Treaty of Versailles for Bosnia. It is setting Bosnia up for disaster," Mr. Kotromanic told Sputnik.

    He said part of the problem was that ethnicity was tied to religion in the agreement.

    "Bosniaks make up over 50 percent of the population but only get one third representation in the government. Also, the Republika Srpska controls 49 percent of the territory of Bosnia, yet it doesn't even come close to making up 49 percent of the population. The Republika Srpska needs to be abolished," Mr. Kotromanic told Sputnik.

    Nikola Ćirković, a Serb who lives in Canada, shares Mr. Kotromanic's pessimism.

    Banja Luka,the largest city of the Republika Srpska entity and second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the capital Sarajevo
    © Wikipedia / Rade Nagraisalovic (Tonka)
    Banja Luka, the largest city of the Republika Srpska entity and second largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the capital Sarajevo

    "It will be extremely difficult for Bosnia-Herzegovina to survive another 50 years in its current form because nobody is happy with it. Bosniaks feel it is undemocratic and desire a more centralized state under the principle of ‘one person, one vote' in which they would have a numerical advantage over the others. Serbs want their original powers they received from Dayton to be brought back and many just want independence from Bosnia altogether, and Croats feel under-represented in the federation and would like their own entity where they can manage their own affairs like the Serbs have. How does a country like that survive when absolutely everybody is unhappy with its current form?" Mr. Ćirković told Sputnik.

    'Nobody Wants To Go Back To War'

    But Mr. Ćirković said he did not believe war would break out again because nobody in Bosnia wants a return to the horrific violence of the early 1990s, when almost 100,000 people were killed and large areas were "ethnically cleansed".

    Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence in May 1992 under Alija Izetbegović but the Bosnian Serbs, under Radovan Karadzic, refused to recognize it and sought to merge Serb-dominated areas in the west and east of the republic with Serbia, Montenegro and some parts of Croatia, to create a Greater Serbia.

    Karadzic, and his military leader Ratko Mladic, declared war on the Bosniaks and besieged the capital, Sarajevo.

    But in 1995 the tide of the war changed, with Croatian and Bosniak forces allying to inflict military defeats on the Bosnian Serbs, who were also attacked by NATO air strikes.

    After the Dayton Agreement was signed, Karadzic and Mladic went into hiding.

    In 2016 Karadzic — who was arrested in Belgrade in 2008 — was found guilty of crimes against humanity, genocide, and breaching the laws of war and was jailed for life the following year. Mladic — who was captured in Serbia in 2011 — was also jailed for life in the same year for his role in the Srebrenica massacre and other atrocities.

    Karadzic's party, the Serb Democratic Party, ruled the Republika Srpska until 2006 when it lost power to the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), whose leader Milorad Dodik is still President of the Republika Srpska.

    Muslim Call To Prayer 'Disturbing' Serbs

    Last week Mr. Dodik said the Muslim call to prayer was disturbing Serbs.

    He said too many mosques were being built in Bosnia and he referred to the call from the muezzin as "screaming".

    The US Embassy said his statements were "absolutely unacceptable".

    Mr. Dodik and the SNSD's grip on power in the Republika Srpska have been challenged recently.

    "The situation has changed in recent months due to the death of David Dragicevic, a 21-year-old whose death (in March) has become a rallying cause for opponents of the government. There have been thousands of protesters gathering in the capital of Banja Luka and the opposition to the Milorad Dodik government will no doubt look to use this opportunity as a way to help finally unseat him for the first time since his ascendance to power in 2006," Mr. Ćirković told Sputnik.

    Mr. Ćirković said Dodik and the SNSD are demanding the original powers granted to the Republika Srpska in the Dayton peace accords be restored.

    "In the years after the war the High Representative (OHR), which is a Western-led body that oversees Bosnia-Herzegovina, made efforts to centralize the country by taking certain powers away from the entities. Dodik has been advocating for bringing these powers back ever since," Mr. Ćirković told Sputnik.

    'Nothing Works' in Bosnia

    Mr. Kotromanic says "nothing works" in Bosnia and he blamed the Republika Srpska's political leaders.

    "Nothing in the country gets done because the Srpska leaders want to drive Bosnia into the ground. They want to see it destroyed, so they refuse to work with others. They are a tumor to the country. Unemployment is over 50 percent, infrastructure never gets completed, but the work is resumed near elections to give voters the illusion that the Srpska government is working," Mr. Kotromanic told Sputnik.

    "No one level of government has complete control over any one aspect of economic or infrastructure policy and so many sides have to agree on key issues for anything to be done. It's precisely why Mostar, which is the third largest city in Bosnia-Herzegovina, has not had a local government for many years. Bosniaks and Croats cannot agree on key issues there, so nothing gets done. This is just one of many examples of paralysis in the country. It's precisely this inability to agree on much that leave many people pessimistic about Bosnia's chances to survive as a country. This is unfortunate because during Yugoslavia, Bosnia served as an example of inter-ethnic cooperation and unity the kinds of which it could only dream about having today," Mr. Ćirković told Sputnik.

    "A truly united Bosnia can only exist if the people within it come to an agreement of how the country should look like. Perhaps one solution is a highly decentralized and loosely federated country of three entities that work together on certain issues but largely manage their own affairs within Bosnia's internationally recognized borders. If a common framework acceptable to all can be agreed upon, then there's no reason why Bosnia's three constituent peoples cannot live side by side in peace and cooperation. If this does not happen, then no options can be taken off the table," Mr. Ćirković told Sputnik.

    Western Powers 'Are To Blame'

    "One thing's for sure, if Western powers who are by far the most dominant players in the region, want an ever-lasting peace in the region, then their current policy has to change. Right now territorial integrity is respected in the region…unless you are Serbia. Likewise, self-determination is also respected…unless Serbs are seeking it. That is a very racist policy and Western powers have to decide which principle they wish to adhere to in the Balkans so that there can be a fair solution for all. Currently, everything Western powers do in the Balkans is only to the detriment of the Serb people," Mr. Ćirković told Sputnik.

    As the communities in Bosnia-Herzegovina try to look to the future at the polls, allegations about the past continue to emerge.

    On Monday, July 16, a former Bosnian Serb policeman, Milorad Obradovic, was charged in a Bosnian court with involvement in killings, torture and other crimes against Bosniak civilians in a village near Prijedor in 1992.

    The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik's position.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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