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18 Mar, 2009 06:06

Strain still shows in Bosnia-Herzogovina

The Bosnian war was ended in 1995, but the region is still torn by ethnic divisions and economic uncertainty as the Republic of Srpska, inside Bosnia-Herzogovina, fights for its independence.

There’s not much in the way of entertainment in Pale, the former capital city of the Republic of Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina. No museums here, no theatre – just a handful of bars. For young people looking to make a future for themselves, the town doesn’t have much to offer. They spend their hours sipping coffee and debating the pros and cons of staying or leaving.

Bojana Ilic, a Pale resident in her twenties is all too aware of the uncertainty. “I think that we are all scared in a way what is going to happen. I read in the newspapers that it is possible that war will break out and things like that, so you can't feel secure. You can't hope for some really nice future, you can't expect that much in a way,” she says.

Insecurity is nothing new to this part of the world.

On Monday, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague cut the sentence of former Bosnian Serb high-ranking politician Mocilo Krajisnik by seven years after an appeal.

He's been acquitted of previous convictions of murder and the mass-killing of non-Serbs during the Bosnian war in the early nineties. But he will still serve 20 years in prison for other human rights abuses.

The former Bosnian leader Radovan Karadzic – currently on trial himself for genocide – testified as a defence witness in the appeal.

In 1995, the Bosnian war ended with the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords. Three years of bloodshed – and more than a hundred thousand deaths – finally came to and end.

But the Dayton peace agreement reinforced, rather than healed, ethnic divisions. It divided Bosnia and Herzegovina into two entities; a Muslim-Croat Federation and a Serb Republic. Below the surface, tensions are simmering as Bosnian Serbs insist on managing their own affairs.

Srpska Prime Minister Milodrad Dodik says, “What is fundamental for us is the permanency of the Republic of Srpska. It is beyond challenge and it is the Republic of Srpska that must function with all the competencies with which it was endowed by the Dayton agreement. It must have its own institutions, its own government, its own president and parliament, its own way of life and of course, its own place within Bosnia-Herzogovina.”

Prime Minister Dodik says there is a future for the Republic of Srpska inside Bosnia-Herzogovinia

But if it comes down to a choice between the two, Bosnian Serbs will always choose independence. A referendum has been touted – asking people their views on secession.

“Western officials objected to Serbs wanting to break away from Bosnia, but the same western officials supported Albanians separating from Serbia. The west forced the disintegration of Yugoslavia which was a multi-ethnic country while at the same time wants to make an artificial multi-ethnic state in Bosnia. You have an example of chronic double standards going on here,” said political analyst Djuro Bilbija.

Coupled with high unemployment – and virtually no future work prospects – it’s likely that more young people in Srpska will no longer be willing to accept things as they are.