I can't write a blog about being in Bosnia without occasionally taking a moment to step outside of the mummy and expat mantle and writing a bit about the situation in Bosnia itself. I tried to set the context of the country in a post back in April (An Uncertain Future) and every now and then put links up to articles about the country in The Economist and other such venerable publications.
When I left the country for the UK 6 weeks ago, the political situation in Bosnia was tense. I kept up with the news, scanned the foreign pages for news of Bosnia and generally kept my ears open. I didn't hear a thing about the country so I figured it was back in its more usual state of tense political stalemate but everyone getting on with their lives just fine.
Back in Bosnia I caught up on what has been happening over the last 5 weeks. Turns out that quite a lot has been going on, none of which had been reported in the UK.
The Office of the High Representative (OHR) who are the International presence in Bosnia and are there to make sure that everyone is behaving themselves, sticking to terms of the peace agreement and generally trying to build up useful things like a stable and uncorrupt government have found themselves in deep conflict with the Bosnian Serbs. In a nutshell OHR is trying to realign some powers that the Bosnian Serb government currently has with the central Bosnian government. Anyway, the Bosnian Serbs are up in arms, threatening to declare independence from Bosnia and there is a lot of throwing toys out of prams, rattling the bars of their playpens and general tantrums worthy of a two year old. For a more grown up take on the actual situation Balkan Insight have a couple of articles worth a peek.
Declaring independence from Bosnia is the ultimate threat. This was what the Bosnian Serbs fought much of the war for, and a declaration of independence could well spark another conflict in the region. There are some who think that the whole mess in Bosnia has gone on for so long that independence for the Republika Srpska is the only way forward (the former US Ambassador William Montgomery writing in the New York Times for example). Others such as Marko Hoare suggest this is allowing the architects of ethnic cleansing to achieve their genocidal aims.
Anyway, the point of this post is not so much a lesson on the Bosnian political situation. More it is to say that I cannot believe that there is so little media coverage of the situation in the Western press. The situation here is tense, very tense. There is a very real possibility that the region could sink back into conflict, and no one is really paying attention. Bosnia is not in the depths of Africa or the mountains of Asia. It is European, it is in Europe. It is just east of Italy, it is north of Greece and is just south of Hungary. The Europeans are in charge of Bosnia (they run the councils that control OHR) and seem incapable of sorting out the situation. The Americans have more influence and clout (Vice President Biden came to speak at the Bosnian parliament and tried bashing a few heads together to try and start some form of cooperation between the different leaders) but see Bosnia as a European issue (for more on this have a look at this recent Economist article). Nobody seems to be getting anywhere, and the situation goes on and on to the huge detriment of the Bosnian people.
The politicians and the media are focused upon how to extract ourselves from the quagmire of Afghanistan and Iraq, and rightly so. But, by ignoring Bosnia today they are both failing to learn useful lessons which could help them. Furthermore, if I was a suppressed Iraqi insurgent, the lesson I'd be learning would be if I kept quiet for a couple of years and waited for the next crisis to crop up somewhere else, I'd be able to do pretty much whatever I wanted as no one would be looking.
Normal service with tales of small children and cultural misunderstandings will be resumed in the next post. Thank you for bearing with me.