Bosnia

‘They are trying to divide us’: Bosnian anti-corruption activists speak out against ‘ruling party’ tactics

REPORT

The last month has seen a flurry of protests across Bosnia and Herzegovina. Peace protests first unfolded at the end of October as Serb nationalist rhetoric threatened to destabilise the fragile peace in the country. More recently, miners from across Bosnia have gone on strike in protest of government plans to restructure indebted coal mines, which would involve redundancies and a 30% cut in miners’ wages. The historical significance of miners in protest has not been lost on historians of South-East Europe: the Husino rebellion of 1920 saw armed miners brutally crushed by government authorities (with the 21 December still commemorated as ‘Dan Ruda’/’Miners’ Day’); miners in 1921 declared their own short-lived antifascist Labin Republic in Istria; on the eve of the deadly Bosnian War in 1992, thousands of miners would protest against ethnic nationalism.  

Throughout the array of protests to sweep Bosnia this autumn, the anti-corruption citizens group, ReSTART BiH has remained a major organising force. The group’s stated goal is to provide ‘concrete actions’ to end corruption in Bosnia’s political institutions, and its programme of protests shows no sign of abating. The string of protests that ReSTART BiH has organised, as well as the vocal support it has given to recent miner strikes, has helped sustain pressure on government institutions. So much so that the industry and energy minister of the Federation of BiH entity left the government building to speak with miners (and was soon booed away).

But just as anti-corruption protests seem to be piling on the pressure, ReSTART BiH say those in power are attempting to divert attention away from the momentum they have helped to build. The Bosnian press have reported that protests will take place on 30 November, organised by police unions, civil servant unions and education unions. ReSTART BiH‘s co-leader, Suad Đozić, says this is not a coincidence:

It seems that one of the three ruling parties (SDA) which has ruled the state for 26 years, is now going against our protests. The protests of the united unions of education, police and civil servants are directed against the local authorities of the Sarajevo Canton, the only place where the SDA has no power. In this way, they hope to […] throw our strictly non-partisan and first genuine civilian protests into the background.’

Đozić’s ReSTART BiH had this to say about the upcoming protests by the police, civil servant and education unions:

Recently, protests organised by police, civil servant and education unions have been announced through the media. We will not speculate about whether these protests are politically motivated, but we would like to highlight that we support every fight for workers’ rights, as well as human rights in general. The citizens group, ReSTART BiH, does things differently. We are looking for the root causes of problems and we are offering solutions. In other words, we do not concern ourselves with the consequences that are visible to all, but rather the cause of these problems. Due to this difference, we refrain from having any association with the announced protests. We are saying this as several media sources that have announced said protests have used our photos in front of government institutions. In these photographs, you can clearly see our banners and citizens supporting what we do. Your duty as the media is to fully and correctly inform the public and explain things in detail, not to misuse such illustrations.

ReSTART BiH

Today (29 November 2021), ReSTART BiH will hand a letter to the Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Johann Sattler, demanding that the international community listen to Bosnian civilians when discussing constitutional and electoral reform.


Article Image Credit: ReSTART BiH

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