Stoking Nationalist Flames

Milorad Dodik, the 7th and current Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is trying to tear apart the fragile state of Bosnia, which was created over the remnants of a brutal civil war. From his own militia, Dodik is now openly calling for dissolution of the state of Bosnia which, in his own words, is a dysfunctional creation of the Dayton Peace Accords.

By Atif Shamim Syed | May 2022

There are three presidents in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One of them is seeking to break away from the country. Milorad Dodik, a staunch Serb nationalist is trying to tear apart the fragile state of Bosnia, which was created over the remnants of a brutal civil war.

Dodik is threatening to dismantle Bosnia’s multi-ethnic army and form his own militia composed exclusively of Serb nationalists. He doesn’t want to pay taxes to the state, does not recognize its judicial system, and does not want to have anything to do with its law enforcement agencies. In fact, he is openly calling for dissolution of the state of Bosnia which, in his words, is a dysfunctional creation of Dayton Peace Accords engineered by the Americans.

The situation seems frighteningly similar to the circumstances that led to the Bosnian war in the early nineties. The conflict claimed hundreds of thousands of innocent lives and displaced more than half of the country’s population.

The war was finally brought to an end with the signing of Dayton Peace Accords in December 1995. The agreement called for cessation of hostilities from all sides, and the creation of a single state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The state comprised two entities; the Serb majority Republika Srpska (RS), and the Bosniak-Coroat majority Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The two entities were accorded significant levels of autonomy under a state government. Each of the three main ethnic groups has one president within the country’s three-member presidency elected for a term of four years. An elected council of ministers holds legislative powers.

It is a highly complex political system created with the intent of providing equal representation to the three ethnic groups so that there would be no conflicts in the future. The main objective of Dayton Peace Accords was to end the war. It basically agreed to all the demands of all warring factions so that everyone was happy. The deal succeeded in bringing immediate peace but the lack of accountability and genuine reconciliation meant that the state remained eternally trapped in a series of crises, threats of secession, and appeasement efforts.

This is not the first time Milorad Dodik is stoking nationalist flames in a highly volatile region. He has done it before, only to be cajoled back into the fold by appeasing politicians. However, this time the stakes are higher for Dodik. He could be facing corruption charges if he loses in the elections scheduled for the next year.

The current crisis started last September when the state medicine agency undertook an inspection of oxygen provided to patients in the Serb part of the country. To the shock of the entire nation, it was revealed that the oxygen made available for Covid 19 patients in Republika Srpska was industrial grade, and was not meant for human use. When this discovery was made public, the leader of the Serb region, Milorad Dodik stubbornly declared that he did not recognize Bosnia’s State medicine agency. He further announced that Republika Srpska (RS) will no longer be open to central government oversight.

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