A complex peace deal, backed by Europe and America, ended the Bosnian war in 1995. Now, it is falling apartby Jasmin Mujanovic / September 23, 2018 / Leave a comment
In Sarajevo recently, I sat with a colleague along the city’s main drag, watching masses of tourists and locals meander their way through the warm evening, most of them festooned with ice cream, shopping bags and pushchairs. The normality of the scene was a celebration of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s post-war recovery. My associate, for his part, was the embodiment of the generation that should have by now seized the reins of Bosnian politics: a successful small businessman across two industries, fluent in English, educated, plugged into the relevant regional and international networks.
And yet we spoke in hushed, ominous tones, exasperated by the endemic corruption of our country’s government, the increasingly aggressive nationalism of the sectarian political elites, the ineffectual opposition, and the gathering storm clouds of the coming general elections, which we both feared could lead to a return to violence.
He confided that like virtually everyone in our generation, born between the late 1970s and late 1980s, he was preparing to leave Bosnia for Western Europe. Even with his sizeable earnings, he could see no way of raising a family in this country.
The situation is worse for those unable to leave. Trapped in an emptying country, governed by an unaccountable elite, their discontent is drawing into sharp relief the deterioration of Bosnia’s precarious post-war politics.
Once the apex triumph of post-Cold War western diplomacy, the peace that has prevailed here since 1995 has become inexorably tied to the health of the global liberal order. For both Europe and the US, already beset by domestic and international crises, a return towards even low-intensity conflict in the Balkans would be a catastrophe neither they nor the Bosnian people can afford.
A broken peace
A quarter of a century on from the end of the Bosnian War, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 100,000 people, the shadow of violence lies over the upcoming elections in this small country, which is still starkly divided along ethnic lines.
The leader of Bosnia’s main Serb nationalist bloc, Milorad Dodik, backed by the Kremlin, has militarised police units under his government’s control. He has also recruited the services of Russian-trained paramilitaries from neighbouring…