Bosnia and HerzegovinaCelebrates 31st Anniversary of Independence

Bosnia and Herzegovina on March 1 celebrated the 31st anniversary of its independence from former Yugoslavia with a referendum held on February 29-March 1, 1992.

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Bosnia and Herzegovina on March 1 celebrated the 31st anniversary of its independence from former Yugoslavia with a referendum held on February 29-March 1, 1992.

Alija Izetbegovic, a politician, writer, and lawyer, came to international prominence during the country’s bitter 1992-1995 war and led the country to independence from the former Yugoslavia. It was in Izetbegovic’s Islamic Declaration, published in 1970, that Bosnian independence, national consciousness, and the expansion of Islamic thought found an audience.

His writings landed him in trouble with the Yugoslav authorities. Along with 12 other Bosniak scholars, he was jailed for 14 years after being accused of “separatism and establishing an Islamic state” in 1983, but was released five years later.

He entered politics that same year and founded the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) in 1990 to empower Bosniaks in their land. SDA in Bosnia – one of the six republics of Yugoslavia – won 86 seats in the 240-seat parliament in the first multi-party elections of 1990. In February-March 1992, a referendum on independence for Bosnia-Herzegovina was held, with 99.44% of votes in favour of independence and a 64% turnout rate. A month later, the EU and US recognised the new state.

However, then-political leader of Bosnia’s Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, rejected the result and was the political face of an armed campaign that culminated in ethnic cleansing and a return to mass murder in post-war Europe.But neither during the ensuing war nor during the 1995 Srebrenica genocide of thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys did Izetbegovic lose the spirit of resistance.

In November 1995, Bosniaks– amid international pressure – stopped the war and signed the Dayton Agreement, bringing peace to the country.The Dayton Peace Agreement, which ended the 1992-1995 war, brought peace while causing the country to have the most complex political structure in the world.The deal is viewed as “an expired peace agreement” in the country.

The accords, initiated at the Wright-Patterson US Air Force base near Dayton, Ohio, on November 21, 1995, ended a brutal civil war in Bosnia that resulted in around 100,000 deaths over three-and-a-half years.

However, nearly 3.5 million people today are living in one of the most fragile and multi-ethnic states in the world, facing economic difficulties and political deadlocks due to a complex constitutional structure.

Dayton built Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single state, but consisting of two entities – the Croat-Muslim Federation of Bosnia and Republika Srpska – as well as Brcko, a neutral, self-governing canton.

The accords, agreed upon by then Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Bosnia’s Izetbegovic, and Croatian leader Franjo Tudjman, also established several mechanisms that institutionalised Bosnian, Serb, and Croat divisions.The tripartite presidency of the country is a clear example of the structural complexity.The country also has ethnic quotas in public institutions, and the groups have veto rights on “vital interests” in decision-making.

This hybrid political establishment has led to the country being governed by three presidents, 14 prime ministers, and 136 ministers for nearly three decades.So, citizens at local and national levels are apathetic toward influencing political decisions due to a range of institutional shortcomings.

Like other countries in the Western Balkans, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s primary goal in foreign policy is to become a member of the EU.The country officially applied for membership to the EU in 2016 and took the first step of a long road by obtaining the status of “candidate country” on December 15, 2022.