Stray Dogs and Stateless Babies (INYT)

Psi lutalice i bebe bez državljanstva

(tekst je objavljen u International New York Times, 22. februara 2014. godine)

Bh. pisac Aleksandar Hemon i gostujući profesor na Univerzitetu Columbia u SAD-u Jasmin Mujanović za New York Times su pisali o posljednjim protestima u BiH, povezujući ih sa različitim apsurdima koji su se dešavali u našoj zemlji posljednjih godina, a za što su isključivo odgovorni bh. politički lideri.
Stoga Hemon i Mujanović pozivaju predstavnike međunarodne da ovog puta stanu uz građane protiv neiksrenih i pogubnih političkih lidera čiji je primarni cilj enormno bogaćenje i “vladavina bez građana”, zasnovana na etničkim podjelama.
“Administrativni aparat je ogroman i broji 70.000 birokrata, uz koje su tu i 180 ministara te 600 zakonodavaca na brojnim nivoima vlasti. Politički establišment na životu održavaju krediti MMF-a. Lideri političkih stranaka se neprestano bogate bez obzira na ideološke i političke razlike, a jednako su posvećeni siromašenju ljudi koje predvode. Oni su postali toliko naviknuti na vlast posredstvom etničkih podjela da su ostali šokirani iznenadnim zajedništvom građana koji su ustali na proteste”, navode oni.
Naglašavaju kako su predstavnici Evropske unije i drugih zainteresovanih strana sada nagrnuli u BiH kako bi osigurali da se ponovo ne moraju baviti izbjeglicama i genocidom te se sastaju sa političarima koje su građani označili kao primarni problem, a koji i pored toga smatraju da su sposobni kontrolisati situaciju i provesti tražene promjene.
“Predstavnici međunarodne zajednice morali bi se sastati i saslušati aktiviste i građane, umjesto neiskrenih političara. Plenumi i njihovi članovi su atom obnove u BiH. Ako međunarodna zajednica ne uvidi da mora stati uz građane protiv bosanskih lidera, koji već godinama vladaju zaobilazeći građane, tada bi turisti u BiH mogli dolaziti jedino uz sponzorstvo oligarha na safari kroz ulice na kojima su psi lutalice”, zaključili su.
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Stray Dogs and Stateless Babies


ON National Geographic Traveler Magazine’s Best of the World list this year, Sarajevo joined such select destinations as Liechtenstein, Puglia and Rocky Mountain National Park. But had the innocent tourist recently visited “the Balkan urban phoenix,” as the list labeled the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he would most certainly have run into packs of stray dogs roaming the city.
In 2009, animal rights activists succeeded in passing a law that outlawed killing stray dogs, and mandated that every municipality build a shelter, which, of course, no municipality could afford. As a result, Sarajevo became home to more than 13,000 dogs; packs attacked children; cats and squirrels disappeared. No government functionary took responsibility for the situation; nobody resigned; nobody was fired. A friend described holding her lap dog over her head to save it, while strays bit into her legs. The average tourist probably lacks this particular survival skill.
Last summer, the tourist might have witnessed the singularly dysfunctional national Parliament in session, surrounded by an angry mass of the citizens it was supposed to represent. They blocked the Parliament building, protesting the Legislature’s failure to pass a law allowing new personal identification numbers to be issued.
For weeks, and for nefarious reasons too tedious to explain, the proposed law had been stuck, which prevented the issuing of ID numbers for newborn children, so that they were born but did not bureaucratically exist — the state depriving them of citizenship with their very first breath. Some had health problems so serious they couldn’t be addressed in the crumbling Bosnian health care system (which the good tourist would be wise to avoid), but they couldn’t seek help abroad, since their passports couldn’t be issued without the ID numbers.
The blockade, led by angry parents, lasted for days, until police officers finally disbanded the protesters. The national soccer team was playing an important match that day, and they wanted to watch the game in peace.
The law was eventually passed, but the new numbers reflect the part of the country where each child is from, serving only to further cement ethnic divisions. Nobody resigned; nobody was fired; nothing seemed to have changed.
This protest, however, was the first time in the almost two decades since the war that Bosnian citizens stood up to their representatives, who are elected on party lists, and therefore far more responsive to their party leadership than to their constituency.
Then, earlier this month, the tourist straying to the northeastern city of Tuzla would have seen a large crowd of citizens demanding the resignation of their local cantonal government. Tuzla is an industrial hub in which the industry has been destroyed by negligence, corruption and what is politely called privatization. Even those workers who retained their jobs hadn’t been paid for almost a year. The protests were peaceful until the police reacted with unprovoked brutality, which in turn enraged the crowds so much that they burned down the cantonal government building.
Soon the protests spread. In Sarajevo on Feb. 7, demonstrators looted and burned several government buildings. Finally, the people were fighting back against an oligarchy enriching itself not despite but because of the pervasive political paralysis.
The tourist interested in the historical oddities behind these events should look into the country’s Constitution. It is a marvel of convolution and unfeasibility, and it came directly out of the 1995 Dayton peace accords. Under the shadow of Richard C. Holbrooke, a deal was worked out among the nationalist leaders who had conducted the war and who made sure they could retain the spoils. According to apartheid logic, it effectively awarded to the cleansers their ethnically cleansed territories, and was practically designed to prevent the state it defined from functioning as a civic society.
In a country smaller than West Virginia and with a population the size of Oregon’s, there exist 142 municipalities, two highly autonomous entities, 10 cantons, a special district, a national government and an internationally appointed high representative to oversee them all. It amounts to approximately 180 ministers, 600 legislators and an army of about 70,000 bureaucrats.
Laws passed at the national level are often blocked through “entity vetoes.” Between 1997 and 2007, of 529 proposed laws, 156 were vetoed outright, and another 113 failed to reach parliamentary majority. In the first decade of the Dayton era, international engagement kept this inertia in check. But since 2006 this pressure has disappeared and legislative activity has increasingly been reduced to thrown-together deals on only the most essential questions — usually I.M.F. loans to keep the political establishment on life support a few months longer.
What the war didn’t destroy has been wrecked by Mafioso capitalism, practiced with equal zeal across ethnicities, in which private initiative is expressed in the form of corruption and cronyism. The political system’s primary function is allowing wealth to be amassed by the leaders of political parties, fully united, despite their presumed cultural and ideological differences, in their commitment to impoverish the people they lead.
WHAT is truly amazing in the whole story is that it doesn’t seem to have ever occurred to the Bosnian elites that the situation is not sustainable. They have become so used to ruling over divided ethnic subjects that they were shocked by an uprising of united citizens.
The Bosnian people have found a voice. In Tuzla, after the initial chaos and police violence, the protesters forced the resignations of the cantonal prime minister. They formed a plenum — an open parliament of citizens where everyone is welcome, and which has by now gone through a number of sessions. They formulated demands, including establishing a cantonal government of non-party-affiliated experts and a thorough investigation of the privatization process. In Sarajevo, the first plenum had to be rescheduled when the organizers were overwhelmed by the turnout. A number of meetings later, the Sarajevans have forced the cantonal government to begin addressing their demands. People in other cities are also getting together to insist on change.
This spontaneous organization, focused on the socioeconomic catastrophes confronting all Bosnians, directly endangers the domination of the ethnocratic models. The plenums call for the ouster of the political establishment and the creation of nonpartisan governments, appointed in dialogue with the citizen assemblies and the remaining authorities, to serve until the next general election in October.
Meanwhile, with a fascinating mixture of extreme cunning and spectacular incompetence, stabbing one another in the back all along, the leaders of the parties in power are compulsively plotting ways to discredit the citizens’ movement, insisting without a shred of irony — let alone shame — on the rule of law.
The flyby representatives of the European Union and other interested parties have now descended upon Bosnia to ensure they won’t have to deal again with genocide and refugees. They met the same politicians who have been bamboozling them all along. These so-called leaders assured them that they were capable of maintaining control and effecting change. But if the international community is serious about helping the country move forward, it must begin by understanding that they are inveterate dissemblers.
Instead, it must meet with and listen to the citizen activists, and back their demands. The plenums and their members are the atom of renewal in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Dayton agreement gave the international community, through the powers of the high representative, the mandate to assist with the process of reform. Washington and Brussels must now stand with the Bosnian people against the leaders who long to govern a country devoid of citizens.
If they fail to act decisively, the only reason for some future tourist to visit Bosnia would be an oligarch-sponsored stray-dog safari.

Aleksandar Hemon is the author, most recently, of the essay collection “The Book of My Lives.” Jasmin Mujanovic is a visiting scholar at Columbia and a Ph.D. candidate at York University.