Independence referendum in 1992 was not the reason for the war in Bosnia?
The war in Bosnia was not the consequence of the 1992 referendum that resulted in the country's independence, but an expression of what Bosnian Serb leadership spent a lot of time preparing for, historian Husnija Kamberovic told N1 on Monday, BiH's Independence Day.
Independence referendum in 1992 was not the reason for the war in Bosnia? March 1st marks Bosnia’s Independence Day declared 29 years ago, when the majority of its citizens voted in a referendum and chose a sovereign and independent Bosnia and Herzegovina, the state of equal peoples and citizens.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina was not destroying Yugoslavia, and the political elite of BiH at the time was not doing that,” he said. “They chose the path of independence at the moment when it became completely clear that Yugoslavia, as a state, was impossible.”
The war that then took place was not because of that referendum, he said.
“We historians know this. There is so much information that shows the extent to which the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) and (Radovan) Karadzic were ready for war in order to prevent Bosnia’s path towards independence. The war was not a consequence of the referendum. The war was an expression of what Karadzic and people around him have practically been preparing for,” he said.
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The idea of Bosnia and Herzegovina when it declared independence was to have a normal, sovereign country where all citizens have equal rights, but today we see it is not like that, he said.“Today BiH is a weak country, one that hardly functions, we have very strong separatist tendencies in the top of the government, we have political circles which don’t accept this state although they are formally the leaders of the state,” he said.
Although he noted that BiH has preserved its internationally recognized borders, Kambrovic asked how much sovereignty Bosnia truly has today.
He commented on the increasing emigration of the youth from Bosnia, arguing that in order for people to feel love for a state, it must ensure they are protected and have good lives.
“The moment people feel they have no protection, the state begins to lose legitimacy. One thing is what happened in the war, genocide, expulsions, etc., and another thing is what happened after 1996.,” he said, arguing that “a lot of people don’t feel good here” because “they cannot find a job, find justice, see no future and lose confidence in the state.”
“The state must be able to restore the trust of its citizens,” he stressed
Bosnia declared its independence in 1992, with a 63.4 percent voter turnout and 99.7 percent of the votes in favour of the country declaring independence from what was then called the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY).
On March 3, the first Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Alija Izetbegovic declared the independence of what was initially called the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which changed into Bosnia and Herzegovina after the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) which ended the 1992-95 war that followed soon after the secession from Yugoslavia.
On April 7, 1992, the United States and then European Economic Community recognised Bosnia as an independent state, and the country joined the United Nations on May 22.
Bosniak and Croat members of the Presidency, Sefik Dzaferovic and Zeljko Komsic, conveyed a message on this occasion.
“Thanks to the legacy of the March 1, Bosnia today is an independent and internationally recognized country, becoming part of the European and Euro-Atlantic family, as a global symbol of security and prosperity,” said Dzaferovic.
“The future of our country lies in integration, connection, understanding and joint efforts to provide the generations to come with conditions for building a society based on European values and standards, in which dialogue and mutual respect for our differences will be the foundation of the betterment for all,” he added.
However, the country remains divided on this celebration. Since 1992, the holiday is being observed only in one of Bosnia’s two semi-autonomous regions, the Bosniak-Croat shared Federation (FBiH).
The other half of the country, the Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) entity, does not.
Chairman and Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, who is elected in Republika Srpska, reiterated this year again that this cannot be a holiday in this part of the country.
But, acting on an appeal by a group of RS National Assembly members in 2017, who challenged the constitutionality of March 1st as Independence Day and November 25 as the Statehood Day, the Constitutional Court of BiH ruled that both holidays were in line with the Constitution and that did not violate international conventions.
Dodik said the Constitutional Court can make a decision on that as many times as it wants but that he will not implement them.
Due to the divisions, the holiday is a non-working day only in the FBiH, while in the RS it is usual working day.