Paulina Janusz: BH Politicians have found a solution to social protests in the country Nationalism for a hungry stomach

Paulina Janusz’ critical take on political parties’ efforts spinning the events unfolding in BiH in their favor. It was published on February 10, 2014 at http://www.kontrapress.com/clanak.php?rub=Politika&url=Nacionalizmom-protiv-gladnog-stomaka

BH Politicians have found a solution to social protests in the country – Nationalism for a hungry stomach

By: Paulina Janusz

Centralization, in the discourse of Bosnian Serb politicians and spokesmen, becomes what Bosniak politicians call the disintegration of the state – a distraction meant to divert the public’s attention from the real problems of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the real demands of its citizens, which, for the political elite, who have ‘reconciled’ a long time ago, represent a real danger.

‘If you can’t solve the problem, then make it into an ethnic one’ is obviously how BH politicians consider it. And since the economic and social challenges of BH society are actually complicated, we did not have to wait for long for them to use this oft-repeated recipe when faced with several days of citizen protests.

The opportunity for this manipulation was brought on by the fact that the demonstrations were held mainly in the Federation, and for that matter in parts predominantly populated by Bosniaks, and the spin about vandals and destroyers of cities launched at the beginning of the protests was only a small step away from the bigger and more politically cost-effective claim – of vandals threatening the security of Bosniaks and of destroyers of the state which Bosniaks have paid for with their blood. Since this story best fits the profile of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), it is not surprising that it began to use this rhetoric and push under the rug the actual postulates of the demonstrators, thus commencing its previously rather tepid election campaign. The SDA is expecting that by “nationalizing” the demonstrations, it will mobilize its electorate, and eliminate, according to current research, its most dangerous opponent – the Union for a Better Future of BiH (SBB) and its leader, Fahrudin Radoncic.

Following the “threatened Bosniaks,” the “threatened Serbs” also became engaged. They provided the public in the RS (Republika Srpska) quite the opposite interpretation of the same events – this time vandalism is a weapon bent on eliminating the entity, and the destruction of the state is being orchestrated by the international community whose goal are constitutional changes.

CENTERS OF POWER AGAINST BOSNIAKS

In fact, Zlatko Lagumdzija, quite surprisingly, was the first to instigate the story that would ultimately turn against. At a conference held immediately after the riots on Friday, the president of the SDP (Social Democratic Party) said: “Exactly those parts which are mostly Bosniak populated, in which institutions do not work, are being presented as dysfunctional, which is interesting considering the fact that pensions in the Federation are 20 percent higher than in the RS, and the average wages are higher as well. I guess they want us to be softer prior to negotiations to say, “you can have a third, we’ll stay in the second, burnt entity.” I believe the only way we will emerge from this episode as stronger is by defending the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole. Some want to portray that there are only problems here [in the Federation] and elsewhere it’s all milk and honey, even though that milk and honey originated from genocide.”

Lagumdzija here leaned on the discourse inherent to the SDA – genocide, the threat of the RS seceeding, the threat of a third entity and, finally, a mysterious center of power that controls these processes. No surprise, then, that a day later the Party leadership issued an almost identical statement.

“We draw the public’s attention to the fact that violent protests were organized exclusively where Bosniaks are the majority. The SDA insists on determining the relationship of these destructive attacks with the intentions of some centers [of power] and their plans regarding the future of BiH. The SDA, on this occasion, reiterates that it will not allow further ethnic and territorial division of the country,” the party said.

On the same day, Bakir Izetbegovic repeated these theses, first during the evening news on TV1, and then on the central news of FACE TV. Izetbegovic talked about the difficult situation faced by all countries in the region, noting however that “the only part where violence happens is the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the majority of Bosniaks are. We fear that this has to do with some plans, with some centers of power, who want to weaken the position of those defending the sovereignty and further division of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

SREBRENICA OFFENSIVE

On Sunday February 9th, the SDA raised its conspiracy theory to a new level. That day Sadik Ahmetovic, deputy leader and former Minister of Security became its informal spokesman. On this occasion, however, another piece of Ahemtovic’s biographical data is significant – he’s from Srebrenica and survived the 1995 genocide.

The Sunday discourse did not focus on vague conspiracies anymore, but on a very specific memory of the war. “I’m afraid that the goal of the protests is the division of the Federation, but I believe that the BH patriots will recognize these dangers, like all those who love this country, the family members of those killed in the war,” Ahmetović said, among other things singling the victims’ families out from the general population. Next he referred to the suffering of the Bosnian flag, which, interestingly, until now, no one had mentioned: “The building of the Presidency is a symbol of Bosnia and Herzegovina, one that was defended during the aggression on this country. Never, not even during the war, was the flag of BiH removed or burned, but this time it was done.”

But the highlight of the SDA vice president’s nationalist demagogy was achieved with the following statement: “I have some information that a group of FK ‘Slavija’ [Football Club Slavija] fans from East Sarajevo lit the Presidency building and the flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina on fire. It is interesting that today (Sunday), the RS entity President Milorad Dodik and Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) President Mladen Bosic are going to Belgrade where they will meet with Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic! We also have a visit today from Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic to Mostar where he will meet with the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vjekoslav Bevanda.”  Ahmetović’s words clearly indicate that BiH is a victim, not of crime and corruption, but of Great Croat and Great Serb aggressions.

MORAL SUPPORT

Srebrenica victims’ associations quickly came to Ahmetovic’s support. After all, who among SDA voters can resist the cries of Srebrenica mothers. The party has long been aware of this and the exploitation of the Srebrenica tragedy is nothing unusual amidst its actions in the absence of rational arguments.

Several Srebrenica Associations, close to Ahmetović and his party, issued a joint statement on Sunday afternoon, repeating the words of its party patrons, adding emotional charge.

“Lighting on fire and demolishing has never been a way to achieve a goal,” said the Srebrenicans. “What was lit on fire over these last days are state institutions for which our loved ones gave their lives. In Srebrenica they were the most innocent. Again and for the umpteenth time, we are witnessing attacks on places where a majority of Bosniaks live. We support everyone’s right to demonstrate, but these peaceful protests have gone the other way in which, unfortunately, everything we defended during the war and that we fought for is being destroyed and burnt.”

Building on Dodik and Bosic’s visit to Serbia: “Interference from other countries, especially Serbia and its Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who actively participated in the war in Bosnia, is totally inappropriate. Politicians of the RS, one of the entities of this state, are headed to Serbia for advice now, like puppets of Belgrade, while our country, BiH has proven in an international court case the aggression of Serbia on Bosnia and Herzegovina! They are wolves in sheep’s clothing that manipulate an entity and people through their elected politicians. We just want to emphasize that we will not let them attack us again!”

Thanks to the moral support that they as mothers of victims could always count on in society, they expose against what the story behind the destroyers of the state is about. They find, namely, “that a part of the protest participants were instrumentalized by certain political parties so they can introduce additional unrest into the state of BiH, already unstable due to the constitutional system as defined by the Dayton Peace Agreement.”

The culprit is marked – certain political parties manipulating the protests and trying to take advantage of them to destroy the state.

FATMIR IN ACTION

In the end, there is only a minute detail of this manipulation left, and that is the naming of the party – the culprits. The role was given to the most extreme ‘professional Bosniak’ reporters, columnists and intellectuals.

The culprit is marked for example by Almir Mehonic, editor of the magazine Divan, in the author’s comment on Saturday February 8. He writes: “Obviously the demonstrations are a method of pressure on the recalcitrant Bosniaks in power. There’s a desire for them to be shown how vulnerable they are. That there are alternatives within that body which will accept all requests and orders. An alternative might just be the minister who controls security. The one who has the means to encourage demonstrations, to order police not to respond to hooliganism. State security and the secret services have always controlled the leaders of fans and groups of hooligans who were clearly given a signal to destroy and burn. This is not done in the Republika Srpska. Why not?”

Even more explicitly, in the same magazine, are the comments of the famous Fatmir Alispahic. The columnist elaborates on the entire conspiracy, which is actually a compilation of all the previously mentioned theories which the SDA has put out into public: “Chaos in the Bosniak majority areas has long been announced and organized, in order to lead the social uprising in the wrong direction, toward self-destruction that feeds the idea the secession of the Republika Srpska and the creation of a so-called third entity, which would leave the Bosniaks imprisoned in a ghetto.”

“Only Great Serb and Great Croat projects will gain politically from burnt towns. The Bosniak public will live in panic, ever more terrified to learn about the work of the Great State actors of Serbia and Croatia in cities with a Bosniak majority. This was a demonstration of occupied Bosniaks,” says Alispahić and “exposes” the mechanisms the state of Serbia and Croatia used against Bosniaks. “Today we know that Belgrade and Zagreb have their agents in the Ministry of Security, the police, among Bosniak intellectuals, and who knows where else, in these secret forces that brought in containers filled with stones in special utility trucks so that the so-called demonstrators had something to throw.”

Alispahić’s column is also published by SAFF magazine, that has, throughout the entire protests tried to present them as a global conspiracy executed at the hands of the Minister of Security, Fahrudin Radoncic. To name just a few titles: “Nermin Bise, Mostar’s famous journalist: I saw members of Radončić’s party provoke arson in Mostar,” “Initiative of BH Citizens: We are seeking the resignation of the Minister of Insecurity Fahrudin Radoncic,” “How Fahrudin Radoncic is trying to exploit the citizen protests. ”

Here and there, the propaganda machine mentions the Federal Prime Minister Nermin Niksic and SDP president Zlatko Lagumdzija. However, since their ratings are quite obviously weak, the on-duty “Bosniak defenders” don’t consider them a major risk to the upcoming regular or early elections.

REVOLUTION OF COLOR

On the, well, other side of the entity line, the first one to sound off after the “black Friday” was the President of the Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik. In a statement for the Srna agency, he very clearly voices the “Serb” view of the events in the Federation, which have become the leitmotif of all official statements of the smaller entity. Dodik said: “It is obvious that not only the economic and social problems in the Federation set fire to buildings in three cantonal governments, but that there is a political project set on somehow transferring the escalation of events in the Federation to the Republika Srpska.”

According to him, the main proponent of “exporting the revolution,” is SDP leader Zlatko Lagumdzija, who “has cried out for something to happen in the RS.” “This is their main and definitive objective, and there is no doubt that this lamenting of Lagumdžija’s for problems in the RS and protests is demonstrated with yesterday’s statement and confirms that they stand behind these protests,” claimed Dodik, who identifies Lagumdzija as the driver of protests in the Federation that should be extended to the RS as well.

The same Saturday, Dodik’s nongovernmental minion, the famed genocide denier Stefan Karganovic of ‘Historical Project – Srebrenica,’ sounded off on this topic. He believes that a ‘revolution of color’ is happening in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has swept through several governments across Europe since 2000. “The revolution of color which has been expected in Bosnia and Hercegovina for more than a year has finally begun. But the fundamental fact that must be noted is that, contrary to the expectations of analysts, ‘regime change’ is not only intended for the RS. There is a coup on the territory of the whole country, which will include the Federation and the RS,” declared Karganović.

He then furthered the theory that citizens have no reason to be dissatisfied, but that their expectations are too high: “This chaos, the illusion of ‘a better life’ that the Western media and propaganda centers encourage among the general public, will be abused to install a new team of puppets, not only on the entity, but also at the central state level.”

Plans of a misguided ‘western life’ are made clear for Bosnians and Herzegovinians: “Long term goals are to bring a unified BiH into NATO, and its full integration into Western Euro-Atlantic structures. According to the current constitution, this is not possible without the consent of the RS government. That is why the first step is to bring such a cooperative government to power. Soon, today’s protectorate – which here and there, to a small extent, enjoys local autonomy – will turn into a colony under the complete control of the West.”

BUSES FROM THE FEDERATION

In connection with the situation in the Federation, Milorad Dodik made further announcements on Sunday February 9 after a meeting with top RS officials and RS representatives in the joint institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He repeated allegations made on Saturday: “Events in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina have a political background and are guided by the centers of power in the Federation. Attempts to transfer these riots to the RS are obvious, but the RS is ready to oppose any violence and ‘import’ of unrest from the FBiH. We will show that the RS has the capacity to maintain peace. My responsibility is to prevent chaos and for the riots to not enter the RS. It is not a question of political power, but of RS statehood.

A new actor of the alleged ‘federal conspiracy’ aimed at Serbs was added to the discourse by the Minister of Labour and Veterans, Peter Djokic (Socialist Party). “Maybe that is a goal for someone. Maybe there is a final objective in the statement made by the High Representative Valentin Inzko, according to who the cause of the unrest is the dysfunction of BiH, to cause even more chaos and crisis from which attitudes leading to a reform of the constitutional system of BiH can be made,” he commented on the statement made by the OHR.

Along the same lines, Pantelija Curguz, chief of the RS Veterans Association, noted the protests in the Federation are part of a conspiracy by the international community with the goal of abolishing the RS. The Veterans’ representative has become, already considered traditionally, the spokesman for the most extreme approach to problems. “Demonstrations in the Federation are just another, among a set of scenarios, attempts to completely destabilize the social situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which cannot be achieved if it doesn’t happen in the RS,” said Ćurguz. According to his conspiracy theory, “riots in the Federation do not resemble unrest of a social character, but destructive demonstrations and creation of chaos aimed at pushing through the intervention of the international community in terms of a new conference and revision of Dayton.”

“Buses from the Federation were ready to go in certain directions to create unrest in the RS. The RS police has such data and has prepared specific actions which would prevent the destabilization of the situation in the RS,” he added. This statement is almost identical to the statement of the SDA vice president Sadik Ahmetovic – the difference is only the national belonging of the hooligans and the direction of the buses.

CENTRALIZATION BOOGEYMAN

On Sunday Ognjen Tadic (Serb Democratic Party), a delegate in the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH, sounded off. According to him, protests are a logical progression of all that has happened in Sarajevo in the last few months. Tadic counted off Generals Manojlo Milovanovic and Novak Djukic, drafts of a law on changes and amendments to the law on permanent and temporary residence of citizens in BiH, and Zlatko Lagumdzija’s statement regarding protests in FBiH at a conference, as already mentioned by Dodik. He also followed up on Inzko’s statement saying that what they “want is to say to solve this is action on the part of the international community through expanded presence of European military forces.”

But the most important of all comments given in the spirit of the RS is Nenad Kecmanovic’s for Srna from February 10.

Kecmanović does not speak from the politician’s perspective, but from that of ‘expert’ and ‘analyst’ and provides ideological justifications of all possible steps that those in government could take to prevent any expression of dissatisfaction of citizens in the smaller entity.

“The scenario is always the same,” he says, “a team of young people from the NGO sector starts an insurgency, giving a non-political reason in order to attract as many people, regardless of ethnic, social, party, generational and other divisions.” In Belgrade in 2000, it was ‘Otpor,’ later in the Ukraine – ‘Pora’ – now in the Federation the function is performed in Tuzla by ‘Udar.’

According to Kecmanović, the RS will defend itself because in the RS such mobilization would be due to insecurity, the source of which lies in the Federation: “The biggest mistake of those who organized the protests was their expectation that the unrest will spillover into the RS, that social-class unity will respectively overcome ethnic-entity divisions, reminding that similar attempts have been made in the past, but that the economy enjoys primacy and the main condition is that people feel safe.”

As long as Sarajevo, Washington, and Brussels are threatening the abolition of the RS, the further usurpation of its jurisdiction, centralization, constitutional reform, revision of Annex 4, in the ‘spirit of Dayton,’ nothing from over there will ‘spill over’ into the RS, Kecmanovic concludes.

And here we arrive at the crux of the Serb variant of the ‘boogeyman of the demonstrations’ – threats of reorganizing the state and ultimately, the abolition of entities.

“Maybe this all fits well with the Bosniak coalition government which is at odds with one another, which is suffering from a crisis of confidence of its voters, and is frantically seeking an exit by antagonizing the RS and Serbs. And it also perhaps does for the so-called international factor, which is looking for a pretext for foreign intervention and centralization from new conflicts in BiH. Ultimately, both of them want centralization in BiH,” says Kecmanovic.

Centralization, in the discourse of Bosnian Serb politicians and spokesmen, becomes what Bosniak politicians call the disintegration of the state – a distraction meant to divert the public’s attention from the real problems of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the real demands of its citizens, which, for the political elite, who have ‘reconciled’ a long time ago, represent a real danger.

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