Bosnian Serb protesters in Banja Luka accuse president of corruption
Thousands of Bosnian Serbs have protested against the ruling party of nationalist leader Milorad Dodik, alleging crime, cronyism and corruption, in the Serb-dominated enclave of Bosnia Herzegovina.
They condemned the procurement of ventilators and other health equipment, like oxygen, during the Covid pandemic.
Shouts of “thieves” and “enough is enough” were heard.
The protest in the northwest town of Banja Luka was led by the town’s mayor, Drasko Stanivukovic, an opposition figure, who told the crowd: “We are launching a struggle against the private state. This is not a protest, this is an uprising.”
The Bosnian-Serb opposition has accused the government in the ethnically Serb enclave of curbing media freedom and democratic right.
It says the government is attempting to shut down critical media groups using the excuse of the Bosnian switch away from an analogue signal for commercial television.
Protesters demanded the replacement of the health minister and hospital managers over alleged procurement corruption.
The entity, Republika Srpska, comprises nearly half of Bosnia and is increasingly demanding independence from the Bosniak-Croat administration. The arrangement was agreed as a means to end the 1992-95 war that left more than 100,000 people dead and millions displaced.
The pro-Russian Dodik is trying to separate Republika Srpska from the rest of Bosnia. He shares the Bosnia tripartite presidency with representatives of the Bosniak and Croat communities.
Bosnia has a weak central government with most powers devolved to two autonomous territories: the Muslim-Croat federation and Republika Srpska.
Hospitals across Bosnia are refilling with Covid patients as the death toll rises while vaccination rates remain low.
After a slow start, by late spring hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses started arriving in Bosnia.
After an early rush, demand for vaccines quickly slowed although Bosnia has Europe’s highest coronavirus mortality rate at 4.5 per cent, Johns Hopkins University reported.
Less than 13 per cent of Bosnia’s 3.3 million population have been fully jabbed, among the lowest proportion in Europe. Other citizens are putting off shots so they can choose a specific vaccine rather than being given what is available.
Bosnia currently administers the Pfizer-BioNTech, Russian Sputnik V, Chinese Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines. AstraZeneca is the most widely available vaccine but is apparently the least popular because it was temporarily suspended in many other European countries amid concerns over possible side effects.
Banja Luka. Picture credit: Wikimedia