The Fragile Peace in Bosnia: Pro-Russian Bosnian Serbs Threaten State Collapse

Rwanda and Germany have proposed a resolution to the UN by which the UN General Assembly should declare July 11 as the International Day of Remembrance of the Srebrenica Genocide, which has angered the Serbs who are threatening secession

by Sededin Dedovic
The Fragile Peace in Bosnia: Pro-Russian Bosnian Serbs Threaten State Collapse
© Daily Mail / YOutube channel

In the Western Balkans region, tensions are flaring up again. The UN resolution on the genocide in Srebrenica is now causing controversies. Serbian politicians see this document as an attempt to shift collective blame onto their people, writes Deutsche Welle.

The symbolism was ominous: Milorad Dodik, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs and the president of Republika Srpska (RS), a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina dominated by Serbs, announced in mid-April, before senior Belgrade officials, that he sees "no point in remaining in Bosnia."

President of the Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik arrives at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow Russia© Handout / Getty Images

"We will go for independence," Dodik said.

At the same time, he claimed, as he often does, that there was no genocide in Srebrenica. However, Rwanda and Germany have now proposed a resolution at the UN to declare July 11th as the international Day of Remembrance of the Srebrenica Genocide.

Representatives of the Serbian government and RS vehemently oppose this resolution, believing it will collectively mark the Serbian people as guilty. Dodik's speculations about how to deal with the 150,000 returnees in RS, Bosnian Muslims who were displaced during the 1992-1995 war and returned after its end, are disturbing.

After recently stating that Bosniaks, who make up over 50 percent of Bosnia and Herzegovina's population, should live on 25 percent of the territory, Dodik warned that in case of adopting the UN resolution on Srebrenica, the only option would be a peaceful secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"People in RS are angry and will not accept living with Bosnian Muslims," Dodik said. Dodik's statement about the 25 percent territory for Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) in BiH echoes rhetoric preceding ethnic cleansing in the Bosnian war.

Systematic and well-planned mass atrocities aimed to swiftly eliminate everything non-Serb in wide parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Almost the entire eastern part of RS had a Bosniak majority population living in cities, while Serbs lived in surrounding areas.

However, after the last war and ethnic cleansing, these cities hardly have any Bosniak population left, and the leader of the Bosnian Serbs wants to secede that part of Bosnia.

Relatives of Srebrenica massacre victims mourn in front of one of the 610 coffins containing the remains of their family members© Marco Di Lauro / Getty Images

During the 1992-1995 war, 31,583 Bosniak civilians were killed, compared to 4,179 Bosnian Serbs.

These crimes were documented and proven before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and in the case of Srebrenica, qualified as genocide, which Serbs now deny and even seek to secede part of Bosnia they ethnically cleansed.

So, while the law of Bosnia and Herzegovina imposes prison sentences for denying genocide, Dodik has included precisely that denial in his repertoire. In mid-April, with the presence of Serbian Parliament Speaker Ana Brnabić, he held a mass rally in Banja Luka, where he gathered thousands of Serbs and again denied the genocide in Srebrenica.

He ended his speech with the cry: "Long live Russia!"

Journey to Russia

A few days later, Dodik, together with his party colleague Nenad Nešić, who is also the Minister of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, traveled to Russia.

There, they met, among others, with the chairwoman of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev. Dodik and Nešić, with smiles on their faces, posted a photo from the plane showing the "three-finger salute," which is a symbol of Serbian ethno-nationalism.

Nešić recently stated on Serbian television: "My country is Serbia. My country is Republika Srpska. Period!" Interestingly, despite all violations of the Dayton Agreement, which was adopted in 1995, the guardian of that peace agreement - the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt - remains silent.

As early as September 2023, Schmidt threatened Dodik with "serious consequences" if he continued to escalate the crisis. However, despite Dodik's continued secessionist aspirations, Schmidt remains silent. Belgrade's authorities regularly assess Schmidt as useful for the peace process, which borders on absurdity.

President of Bosnia Denis Becirevic agreed with the Secretary General of NATO to send additional troops to Bosnia and Herzegovin© Al Jazeera Balkans / YOutube channel

EUFOR - peacekeeping troops deployed by the EU to ensure the implementation of the Dayton Agreement - should now intensively patrol areas where returnees live.

To achieve this, an essential increase in these troops is necessary. The 150,000 potential victims, who have already gone through hell once, former and meanwhile deceased British High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lord Paddy Ashdown, once called "the most miserable among the miserable." The threat and re-traumatization of returnees by Dodik are inevitable.

The West should act preventively to save these people in case the worst scenario occurs, for example, with the help of militarily secured safe zones, possible evacuation actions, and through no-fly zones. This scenario may sound unreal, but those who survived the Serbian massacres of spring 1992 live in an atmosphere of fear.

That fear is very real when Serbian Chetnik units celebrate their massacres in Višegrad unpunished every year, when Putin's nationalist biker gang "Night Wolves" parades through RS, and when the RS president denies genocide.

For Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General Christopher Cavoli, the situation is serious. Before the US Congress on April 17, he said, "The situation in the Western Balkans has worsened. Ethnic tensions in BiH have the potential to escalate." According to General Cavoli, RS is trying to "weaken the authority of the state" and its relations with the EU and NATO, while maintaining close ties with Russia.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg recently expressed deep concern about the "continuous separatist policies" in Bosnia and Herzegovina. NATO impressively demonstrated in Kosovo in September 2023 how conflict can be extinguished within a few days. The West should now act preventively to save Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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