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Lessons from Bosnia — Part 2
Dayton Peace Agreement
I do not want to bore you with details of the actual agreement (and oh my goodness, those are dull) since that wouldn’t add to the article. Besides, we are planning to make a documentary about ‘paper’ vs ‘reality’, i.e. show the boring details of the document with the very interesting way they translate into real life. If you’d like to know more about the documentary, please visit the link below.
In this article, I will talk about the Dayton Peace Agreement (Dayton) as the people of Bosnia see it and experience it. First off, I’ll mention something about some of the assumptions on which Dayton is based, which will inevitably lead to a little bit about the history of Bosnia, and then what Dayton did.
We’ve always thought of Dayton as an internal issue. Hence, it never occurred to us that we should talk about Dayton in terms of a ‘global trend’, at least not until the war in Ukraine. At one point it was suggested that they write another ‘Dayton’ for Ukraine. I know many Bosnians (myself included) who sent messages to everyone we could to advise against this.
However, Dayton might be important for the rest of the world too. It seems that there might be a chance that Dayton was a test for how far the leaders could go in being ridiculous with their decisions and people will stay silent. For example, over-population, 15-minute cities, farms cause pollution, milk being overpriced while also being thrown away, digital currency, and so on are all examples of strange policies.
I mean, what exactly is the solution to a problem like ‘overpopulation’, AND is it a real problem? Seems to me those who claim this is a problem need to travel more. I know in Bosnia there are MANY areas completely deserted.
15-minute cities are basically jails, which could remove the threat of ‘masses’ — i.e. people joining into the greatest power that there is for a common good.
Farms are a source of food.
The supply of milk should not be reduced by force so that we can increase the price. Milk was once free for schoolchildren. Many will still remember when that was suddenly taken away. Is this now a move to take milk from all of us?
Digital currency; it is clear how banks would benefit, but what do people get from a digital currency?
And this is barely the tip of the iceberg, however, it shows that we are suddenly flooded by strange and somewhat insane policies that can’t possibly be for the benefit of the people. What’s next? Hunger Games?
Talking about Dayton is hence important for two, maybe even three reasons: 1. To introduce the system in which people of Bosnia live so that these lectures make a bit more sense, 2. To show what kind of decisions will be supported by the international leaders. This leads to a possible third reason: What does this say about the leaders of the world?
We’ll start with assumptions behind Dayton. Dayton assumes that everyone is equally to blame for the 1992–95 war in Bosnia. This is insane, to put it bluntly. It implies that leaders of the world believe that everyone in Bosnia went from ‘brotherhood and unity’ to ‘let’s murder one another’ simultaneously. However, what’s even more shocking is how reluctant they are to change their minds, even in the face of brutal facts like mass graves. Mass graves clearly state that one side was ‘the victim’. One side was clearly NOT prepared. If they were not prepared, clearly they didn’t expect the war, let alone initiate it.
Dayton also assumes that Bosnia had a civil war. If it did, why did we need Serbia and Croatia to agree to Dayton before it could be effective? They had to agree so that they would get their armies out of Bosnia, the armies that invaded Bosnia. Plus, Serbia bombed Bosnia from its territory. It was a war of aggression. This is very important, because it means that to keep peace in Bosnia, it is not about the citizens of Bosnia, it is about making sure that Serbia and Croatia do not attack again. We will examine how much Dayton helped to prevent this key element to keeping peace in Bosnia.
Since Dayton assumed that everyone was equally to blame for the ‘civil’ war in Bosnia, it decided that everyone should be treated equally. In other words, those who carried out the genocide (and support that kind of murder to this day) have equal rights and powers as the victims of the genocide. In fact, for many years, leaders of the world were very proud of Annex 7 of Dayton because it ensured that everyone returned to their homes. Sounds great, right? Well, in reality, this meant that women, in places like Prijedor, who were repeatedly gang raped in concentration camps, met their abusers on the streets. And, no, those who returned are not protected and their safety is constantly violated, they are attacked in various ways, and no one seems to care.
And, the last assumption I will mention is the assumption of 3 ethnicities in Bosnia. This is the most complicated one because even we don’t know what those ‘ethnicities’ or ‘nationalities’ are. There is no definition of them. So we will need to look into the history of Bosnia for just a quick second to find out how this came to be.
Bosnia has always been the ‘weird’ country in Europe. There is a document in Venice that refers to Bosnia as ‘God given’ — this is from before countries existed. We have natural borders — two fast rivers, one on the northern border, the other on the eastern border. And then the south-western border is either the sea or really high mountains and cliffs. Apparently, when people were escaping Cesar they took refuge in Bosnia — the country has mountains covered in thick woods with lots of springs of natural water; i.e. it was easy to hide and survive. So, we could assume that Bosnia was initially populated by rebels; some good, some bad.
Then, when everyone in Europe was accepting Christianity, Bosnia didn’t. And if that wasn’t bad enough when everyone in Europe rejected Islam, Bosnia (again) didn’t. We accepted Islam. As I said, we might be a country of rebels, but let’s be honest, the world NEEDS rebels, especially Europe. And especially the kind of rebels that do not attack anyone, like we are. So we are rebels only in terms of ‘you live how you like and let me live how I like’, and we’ll just exchange views.
In other words, while in other countries of Europe, Muslims came from somewhere, in Bosnia we didn’t. We converted. We’ve been here all along. It seems like this is a big problem. I’m not sure I can explain why, because it seems like Europe wants us to be brutal savages, yet we’re not. Wouldn’t it be easier for Europe to accept that we’re not rather than to fight us and try to turn us into those? I mean, where’s that freedom of religion that we’re so proud of? I know Bosnia is ahead of any other European country with respect to freedom of religion, but we’re not asking them to come to our level, just move in that direction. We’re seriously worried that they might force us down to their level. That won’t be good for anyone.
Now, pre-1992-war Bosnia was part of Yugoslavia. It wasn’t much fun for many reasons but most relevant are the attacks on Bosnian identity. It’s interesting. We had the Ottoman Empire for like 400 years, yet we remained as Bosnia, speaking Bosnian. After the Turks, we had the Austrian empire for a bit (yet long enough to turn Bosnia into Bosnia and Herzegovina — the reasons are incomprehensible, but this is still the official full name of Bosnia), and as many of you know Gavrilo Princip murdered Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, causing an issue between Serbia and Austria, which led to World War 1. I still think Europe needs to take a good hard look at how and what happened there. But, after that, there was a kingdom, followed by World War 2, and then Yugoslavia where people in Bosnia had to call their language Serbo-Croatian, and they had to choose between being a Serb, a Croat, or undecided. My grandfather flipped a coin, and he was officially a Serb for a while. In the 1970s, the people of Bosnia got the option to be ‘Muslims’. So we had Serbs, Croats, Muslims, and Others. Completely insane by my standards. However, this is where the big issues with the ‘identity of people in Bosnia’ started. As you can see, one of those, (and as it turned out majority of the people in Bosnia) is a religion, not a nationality like the other two. In theory, you can be a Muslim anywhere in the world. Plus, I do NOT think it helped when Tito said his famous line: Bosnia is not Serbian or Croatian, it is both Serbian and Croatian. He was right in the first part of the sentence: Bosnia is NOT Serbian or Croatian. However, he failed to teach that Bosnia is Bosnian.
Long story short, the people of Bosnia were divided. However, this didn’t bother Bosnians. After all, the system provided them with jobs, housing, and enough freedom to live a ‘carefree’ life. No one thought about what it means to be a Croat in Bosnia, where Croatia is wrapped around 2/3 of the country. Or a Serb for that matter. There were stories of discrimination, but no one took much notice of those. After all, the worst you could be is against ‘brotherhood and unity’. And these divisions were ‘brotherhood and unity’ — yes, people believed that divisions were brotherhood and unity, and no, those people were not stupid. It was a simple process of preventing people from disagreeing when it was new, and then making sure that this became ordinary, through schools, media, and such. A few years pass, and there you go, People think divisions are equal to unity. Does this sound familiar?
To this day, we have no definition of what is a Croat or Serb in Bosnia, but we do know they’re very important. The freedom that people had during Yugoslavia to ‘identify’ as a Croat or a Serb is no longer an option. Even during Yugoslavia, if you were a Catholic you were likely to identify as a Croat, and if you were an Orthodox Christian, you’d identify as a Serb — rule of thumb more than a hard rule, as there are many exceptions. It seems that now we must let Serbia and Croatia decide the identity of the people in Bosnia. Croatia has already openly stated this in the case of one of our presidents — Zeljko Komsic. Apparently, they do not approve of him identifying as a Croat, and the EU is on the side of Croatia. My theory is that lobbyists can make leaders really stupid. But we will get to that in future talks.
So, needless to say, the identity of the people in Bosnia is all over the place. And if we don’t know how to define those terms, I am certain that no one in the world can understand them. Yet, they are in our constitution as the most important element, far more important than being a human.
Dayton is desperate to be ‘equal’ to all once again, so it has created a system of 3 presidents, one from each of these three groups. Yes, Bosnia, a country of about 3 million people, has 3 presidents. They rotate every 6 months. You’d think that that alone is a problem — too many lords leave the lands bare. But the number of them is only the tip of the iceberg. For many years two out of three of our presidents were against Bosnia. One very openly, very openly, absolutely no doubt about it. So, in short, two out of three presidents in a democratic country in Europe were against the country where they were a president.
Now two of those presidents are chosen from one entity (I’ll get to the entities in a minute), while the third is chosen from the other entity. In other words, citizens of Bosnia cannot vote for the government that makes decisions for all of them. I complained about this in 2014 to the EU delegation. A woman who works there, clearly in support of Croatia, told me that we do not have the right to even address the leaders in the entity where we do not live, even though they make decisions that affect our healthcare, as was the case in that instance.
The other problem is that we have more ethnicities than those three: Jews and Roma, for example. They have no rights. They’ve taken the system to court, they’ve won the case, the system in Bosnia is unfair to them, nothing has changed for them.
Then there’s the problem that we are not equal in numbers. Less than 15% of the population are Croats, about 30% are Serbs, and just over 50% are Bosniaks previously known as ‘Muslims’, and previous to that known as ‘citizens of Bosnia’. So, if all three of these have equal rights and power, clearly Croats have more than anyone else because there are so few of them compared to other groups. However, they have Croatia behind them, so in the latest developments, Croats gathered around the Croatian political party that has a branch in Bosnia, have just been given ‘total’ power by the EU. Breaks almost every rule of Dayton which claims that Bosnia is independent. Hence, the guarantors of Dayton are the ones not respecting it, going against it, and against the decisions of European courts of Law, and instead of taking power from that political party to make the system more fair and just, the EU gave them even more power, causing an even bigger chaos in Bosnia.
And that’s not all. Three presidents is probably the least complicated thing about the system in Bosnia. Dayton has created 14 governments, plus the Office of High Representative (OHR). OHR is a topic all on its own and will be covered in one of the future talks. All I will say about OHR for now is that I’ve had meetings there. I was always told that the OHR cannot do anything, and that we in Bosnia must figure it out, sort out the problems that the international community has created for us. And then suddenly OHR proved that they can and will act on behalf of Croatia. Not only was this an insult and a waste of my time, but it also cost me my reputation with the people in Bosnia. I was literally told “You went to those meetings, how do we know you told us the truth about what happened? If that was the truth, how did Schmidt do this now?” In theory, OHR should represent the interests of Bosnia, in fact, it should be focused on the civilians. This is far from what is going on. It has failed miserably in doing its job for MANY years. The latest from this institution is probably the worst as it has made the situation WORSE, much worse.
For now, we’ll go back to the 14 governments in Bosnia. So there are these two entities: Federacija of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Republika Srpska — FBiH and RS. In theory, these two entities were supposed to serve the national level, serve the development of Bosnia. And, perhaps if the war in Bosnia had been a civil war, this might have happened. But the war in Bosnia was a war of aggression, hence no frigging chance.
RS is how Serbia has power in Bosnia, and FBiH is where Croatia wants to rule. Hence, Dayton is sometimes referred to as the Trojan Horse of the modern day.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but at various international meetings, other countries have like one or two representatives, often the same people for years, yet Croats and Serbs often have more representatives because some are from Serbia/Croatia, while others from Bosnia, but they still represent Serbia/Croatia. Plus, when they talk about ‘representatives’ from Bosnia, chances are it’s always a different person. So even on a global scale, it is evident that Serbia and Croatia are more privileged because of their power in Bosnia, and that in Bosnia there is no continuity.
RS is not divided. The area is practically ethnically cleansed, unless we count the dead in mass graves. They support Putin. They deny genocide, or claim that they will do it again — I know, how can both of these be taking place; doing it again implies that they did it previously, yet at the same time they deny they did it previously. I don’t know, but I do know that politicians who are leading this circus are very respected in the world. For example, Vucic (president of Serbia) and I had a little tiff in Vienna in 2015. I heard that he complained about this. Guess which one of us was left aside? Well, I am only an activist, he’s a politician. Anyway, RS has more of a totalitarian regime than the rest of Bosnia, or at least we did until Mr Schmidt came as the leader of OHR.
FBiH had 10 cantons. Each of these cantons has a government. We are trying to understand how these cantons help Bosnia because all we can see is our money being wasted on a lack of decisions, passing around responsibility, Croatia having a way in, and a general mess of divisions. God forbid that you need a piece of paper from one canton for another. It’s easier to get a visa to the USA.
And then there’s Brcko district, basically one town in North-East Bosnia that managed to save itself from the torture of the RS government, but there’s only so much they can avoid.
So we have, like, 13 ministers for everything. These 13 ministers blame one another whenever something goes wrong. As an activist, I’ve been sent into circles as there is no one to put pressure on to get changes. There is no one person to blame, to say ‘you decided this, this is wrong, you should resign’. The moment you think you’ve found someone, they tell you that you need to speak to someone else, so you do, and they send you to someone else. To make matters worse, some of these ministers have never voted for anything. They come to the meetings, sit there, do absolutely nothing (well, sometimes they pick their nose), and they get paid, and they get all kinds of privileges. And we don’t even have much to say about those because we’re too busy with the ones who are acting against Bosnia, yet being paid out of our money.
After 28 years of this chaos, Bosnia has become a country where EVERYTHING is a challenge. Opening a business — oh dear! Selling property? Well, depends on where it is and what it is. Applying for a job can cost around £100. Corruption is now common practice, we call it ‘IMT’ — imal’ mene tu, literally meaning ‘where’s my cut’. So on and so forth. Needless to say, people in Bosnia are leaving the country in 1000s every year. The mass migration? Well, Bosnia is a fine example of how that can be prevented. And it’s not even that hard.
I hope this gives you some idea, enough to talk about the lessons. However, before I end, I should note that Dayton has never been translated into Bosnian, so most people in Bosnia couldn’t have read it even if they wanted to.
The document has never been through the parliament of Bosnia. In fact, a Bosnian copy of the document was lost so we had to get another copy from France.
People have never agreed to it, and no matter how much they are against it, no one cares. Many people in Bosnia refuse to vote because of the way their vote will be counted — because the whole government is divided into ‘ethnic groups’, the votes must also be.
Dayton is NOT the constitution of Bosnia, it is part of the constitution, though many in Bosnia do not know this. In fact, the constitution of Bosnia states that if Dayton is not respected it will be removed and Bosnia will go back to its original constitution. The question is: HOW?!
International Community believes it must come from within. I.e. they expect all these different governments to say, “OK, great, yes, please remove my position, and while you’re at it, sue me for all the money that I have stolen throughout the years. I can’t wait to swap my luxurious life in mansions, traveling with helicopters, for a cell in a prison.” Not only are they never, ever going to say that, but they will continue to divide Bosnia into these ethnic groups, or tribes (as we call them), just so that they can stay in power. Many politicians in Bosnia would sooner cause a war than confess that Dayton has been over for a very long time, especially now that Schmidt has done what he has done.
In short, lessons from Dayton are:
1. Paper and reality are two very different things. Just because something sounds nice on paper, it does NOT mean that it will be nice in reality.
2. Equality is NOT always positive. Sometimes it is unjust, unfair, and maybe even brutal.
3. A politician who will make inhuman decisions in one country is perfectly capable of making such decisions anywhere in the world
4. If identity becomes more important than humanity, we are in trouble. Identity is VERY important, but it is not the most important thing in the world.
5. The easiest way to remove accountability is to ‘share’ responsibility, while at the same time making the lives of ordinary people so complicated they will have no time or energy to worry about what their government is doing.
6. Voting alone is NOT the voice of the people. If people refuse to vote, finding out why is vital.
7. Solutions MUST come from those that created the problem. While the ‘fish stinks from its head, yet it is cleaned from the tail’, cleaning a fish that already stinks is a bit of a waste.
8. Divisions and unity are antonyms. They cannot ever be synonyms. If there are ‘divisions’ the reasons must be beyond all doubt, and not based on a bunch of words that no one has examined.
9. Rewarding evil will lead to more evil, no matter what the excuse.
10. ‘Aim justifies the means’ is a pathetic excuse, of a pathetic man, for his pathetic actions. Aim is defined by the means.
If you wish to read the first part of ‘Lessons from Bosnia — Introduction’ please go here: Lessons from Bosnia - Part 1 (Introduction)