Bosnia falters under an unwieldy system
International New York Times, 11. februar 2014.
Bosna posrće zbog nezgrapnog sistema
Najrasprostranjeniji antivladini protesti u Bosni u zadnje dvije decenije ostavili su pustoš u centru Sarajeva, kao i u drugih pet gradova, demonstranti su iskalili svoj bijes ka političarima koji služe sami sebi, najkorumpiraniji su i najglomaznji politički sistem u Evropi.
Objavljeno ne International New York times, 11. februara 2014.
SARAJEVO, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
BY ALISON SMALE
Bosnia’s most widespread antigovernment protests in almost two decades shut down the center of Sarajevo and affected five other cities on Monday as demonstrators vented their anger at politicians they view as self-serving and corrupt in the most cumbersome political
system in Europe. Although the complex mechanism negotiated in Dayton, Ohio, by the United States to end Bosnia’s almost four-year war in the 1990s halted mass bloodshed,
it has proven unable to furnish public prosperity or more than tenuous peace.
Angry youths and workers recently laid off in Tuzla, once an industrial hub in northern Bosnia, rioted last week, provoking demonstrations across the ethnically mixed parts of Bosnia governed by a Muslim-Croat federation.
There has been almost no unrest in the Bosnian Serb republic, which in general has less freedom of expression. Some 1,000 protesters fanned out across downtown Sarajevo on Monday, chanting slogans against ‘‘criminals’’ in government and urging those in authority
to ‘‘resign today!’’ The march drew a cross-section of ages, a few workers and many more middle-class students or unemployed graduates, and passed without clashes with riot police officers guarding government buildings.
Several of the younger demonstrators said they were there because, as Sajida Tulic, a 27-year-old actress, put it: ‘‘This is not a way of living. We want our dignity back.’’
Lejla Kusturica, 29, said, ‘‘I think the biggest fear of our politicians is a united people.’’ She later briefly addressed the ragtag crowd through a megaphone that was barely audible to most demonstrators. Ms. Kusturica said she was not deterred by government politicians denouncing
the demonstrators as hooligans, because, she said, ‘‘We have no other chance.’’
Police violence against demonstrators in Tuzla last week set off a protest on Friday in Sarajevo, where masked youths stormed two major government buildings, setting fires and smashing windows. Unrest was reported in at least a dozen other towns, although in some places the crowds were small.
“The best thing is that it is not just Sarajevo,” Jasmin Telalic, 21, an engineering student, said on Monday in the Bosnian capital. Local news media reported unrest in Mostar, a predominantly Croat city in the south, as well as in Tuzla and other locations.
State-run news media and officials have said in recent days that the demonstrators were organized hooligans, or were mixed up with drug dealers, but the Sarajevo protest on Monday had a makeshift air. Some participants carried flimsy handmade signs railing against factory closings or against certain politicians; they called for a new government of the expert, the young and, above all, the uncorrupt.
Bosnia’s political system allows scores of political parties to obtain state financing, and the proliferation of bureaucracies — in addition to the Muslim-Croat and Serb entities, there is a three-person presidency, 10 cantonal administrations and scores of municipalities — has made the government by far the country’s biggest employer.
The Dayton accords among the leaders of warring Serbs, Croats and Muslims — the latter now called Bosniaks — brought an end to the 1992-95 civil war by constructing a decentralized state that gave each a share of power and none of them dominance. The chief American negotiator, Richard C. Holbrooke, who died in 2010, was widely hailed for his diplomatic skill in ending the slaughter. But the Bosnians have since added layers of complexity to the original design that have entrenched the political elite while often hindering economic development.
Overall unemployment is estimated at 27 percent to 40 percent, and as many as 70 percent of young people are said to be without work.
Back-room deals between businesses and those in political power have been a way of life here at least since the Communist Yugoslav days of Josip Broz Tito, who is nonetheless revered here for having kept at bay the ethnic rivalries that nationalist politicians exploited in the 1990s after his death in 1980. The wars that resulted killed more than 100,000 people and caused millions to flee their homes.
Social media — primarily Facebook and Twitter — has recently harnessed long-simmering frustration and anger at state corruption, leading to demonstrations where the gulf between the protesters and the political elite was palpable, and somewhat reminiscent of the recent, far bigger antigovernment protests in Ukraine.
Bosnia has received billions of dollars in aid, and foreign officials and forces have been sent to help coax the ravaged country back to peaceful life. Compared with how things were 18 years ago, there have been achievements. But they have fallen far short of what Western donors and leaders had hoped.
The unrest now is “a wake-up call,” according to the British foreign secretary, William Hague.
Several older demonstrators in Sarajevo said Monday that they were marching on behalf of their children or grandchildren.
“I just want to support the young people of our country,” said Belma Ridzal, 44, who said she splits her time between Sarajevo and Amsterdam. While her own children were building a future outside Bosnia, she said, other people’s children should have that same chance at home. “It’s very simple,” she added. “It’s their time.”