Wednesday, February 12, 2014

meanwhile, back at one of many locations where we meddled extensively....,

aljazeera |  An anti-privatisation protest in the city of Tuzla has exploded into general social insurrection.

Whatever little semblance of legitimacy the constitutional order in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) may have enjoyed at the beginning of this week went up in flames on Friday night. BiH's three Presidents, two entities, one special district, ten cantons and internationally appointed High Representative - the entirety of its bloated bureaucracy - witnessed the storming of their government offices in the cities of Tuzla, Sarajevo, Zenica, Bihac and Mostar.

As a result, at least two regional governments have collapsed, in the Tuzla and Zenica-Doboj cantons. What began as a local, anti-privatisation protest on Wednesday in Tuzla had grown by Friday into a general social insurrection.

Two years ago, I wrote that a "Bosnian Spring" was this country's only hope for a brighter future. Now, the spring has come, and with it, the storms. 

For nearly twenty years, Bosnians and Herzegovinians have suffered under the administration of a vicious cabal of political oligarchs who have used ethno-nationalist rhetoric to obscure the plunder of BiH's public coffers. The official unemployment rate has remained frozen for years at around 40 percent, while the number is above  57 percent among youth. Shady privatisation schemes have dismantled what were once flourishing industries in Tuzla and Zenica, sold them off for parts, and left thousands of workers destitute, with many still owed thousands of dollars in back-pay. Pensions are miserly too; the sight of seniors digging through waste bins[Ba] is a regular one in every part of the country, while the wages of BiH's armies of bureaucrats and elected officials have only grown[Sr].

Pervasive corruption
After the general elections in 2010, it took sixteen months for a state government to be formed, one which collapsed almost immediately thereafter. Since then, on the rare occasion that Parliamentary sessions have actually been held, the members of this body have mostly concerned themselves with calling for the ouster of their political opponents. ZivkoBudimir, for instance, the president of the Federation entity, was arrested in April of last year on suspicions of corruption and bribery. He was released shortly thereafter for "lack of evidence" and has since returned to his post. As Sarajevo burnt on Friday, Budimir declared[Sr/Ba/Hr] that he would resign if the people insisted - apparently refusing to look out his window as he spoke. 

Several major elected official in BiH have been under investigation for corruption. In the Federation, the squabbling of Bosniak and Croat nationalists has immobilised government institutions. In the Republika Srpska(RS) entity, President Milorad Dodik has attempted to make himself synonymous with the Serb nation itself - hounding the few independent journalists and activists who dared challenge him

But the ethno-nationalist rhetoric of these elites betrays the realities of BiH's true political economy: accumulation through dispossession. The graffiti on the walls of the burnt out husk of the Tuzla canton government now offers a stark rebuke to these policies: "You must all resign! Death to nationalism!"

The international community has, meanwhile, allowed this sordid state of affairs to fester since the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995. An initial period of reform between 1996 and 2006 has all but completely ceased and since then the country has jerked from one constitutional crisis to the next. All the while, seething public anger has repeatedly threatened to boil over, as it did this past summer during the so-called "Baby Revolution".

The reasons for this rage are simple: At no point have the international architects of peace in BiH expended any serious energy to include ordinary citizens, students, workers or pensioners in the reforms which European and American diplomats insist the country requires. Instead, by engaging exclusively with members of BiH's obstructionist and recalcitrant political establishment, they have only cemented the oligarchs in their posts while the pleas and demands of ordinary citizens, students, workers and civil rights activists have been ignored.