Bosnian tensions deepen as Serb president calls for separate army
The Serb representative in Bosnia’s three-member presidency, Milorad Dodik, has called for a Bosnian-Serb army, prompting his Croat counterpart, Zeljko Komsic, to tell Sarajevo radio that the demand was a “criminal act of rebellion”.
Bosnia’s main political institutions face a Serbian boycott and the demand is likely to increase tensions. Dodik said: “We will withdraw consent for the [Bosnian] army” after a vote in Republika Srpska’s parliament.
Dodik told the media that secession “will happen” because Bosnian institutions are not functioning, although the Serbs “have no plan”.
A decision could be delivered in days and a Republika Srpska army could be set up “within months”, Dodik told reporters.
Deputy US Assistant Secretary of State Gabriel Escobar warned Dodik “that threats of secession and rolling back reforms [will lead to] nothing but isolation and economic despair”, according to a tweet by the US embassy in Sarajevo.
Escobar reaffirmed US commitment to Bosnia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the tweet said.
Bosnia’s three-member presidency represents Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats and Bosnian Muslims and commands the country’s armed forces.
The Bosnian conflict ended in 1995 with the former Yugoslav republic split between the Serb-run Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation.
The 1992-95 war claimed around 100,000 lives. At its end, central institutions, including a shared tripartite presidency and a joint armed forces, were established.
The internationally created United Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina was established in 2006 and now employs around 10,000 military and civilian personnel.
The international community sees the army as an important link connecting the three Bosnian communities.
Serbs account for nearly a third of Bosnia’s population.
Dodik has been trying to establish an independent Republika Srpska, calling Bosnia an “experiment by the international community”. It is an “impossible, imposed country”, the Serb president has said.
Since July, Bosnian Serbs have been boycotting Bosnia’s central government institutions. They are protesting against the ban on a denial of the genocide in Srebrenica in 1995 imposed by the former United Nations envoy to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Austrian Valentin Inzko.
His successor, Germany’s Christian Schmidt, has sweeping executive powers allowing him to impose legislation and dismiss elected politicians.
International courts have ruled that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, which involved the murder of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian-Serb troops, was an act of genocide.
Bosnian-Serb leaders have denied that the killings amounted to genocide, calling the Srebrenica massacre a “great crime.”
Earlier this month, Serbia called for ethnic Serbs across the former Yugoslavia to unite, which reminded many of similar proclamations by the Serb nationalist leader Slobodan Milošević, which sparked the Yugoslav wars.
Milorad Dodik kisses the flag of Republika Srpska before the Republic Day parade in Banja Luka in January 2018. Picture credit: Wikimedia