Celebration of January 9, as RS Day, and everything about it triggered in the first days of this year maybe the biggest tensions in BiH in the period after the war ended, since 1995.
Citizens are divided on this issue nationwide and this creates a very dangerous situation in BiH, similar to the spring of 1992 when the war started. Tensions rose even higher at the demand of RS president, MIlorad Dodik, for the participation of three Infantry regiment of BiH Armed forces in the parade which will be the central point of celebration. The problem is that this regiment, according to agreement signed by RS and Federation BiH several years ago, is formed from RS Army. As such, this military unit is legitimate to participate in the parade prepared for celebrations in RS. Instead of the regiments, BiH Minister of Defence, Marina Pendes, gave her cosent just for a military band but not to parade, just stay in one place and play the appropriate music. Dodik and all other Serb representatives on all levels of government, rejected that plan.
“If the Ministry refuses to give permission so that 40 soldiers of a regiment that has roots in the RS Army, we will consider BiH Armed Forces as an enemy force”, Dodik said a few days ago.
His statement only “threw more oil in the fire” and Bosniak member of BiH Presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, said to media that this statement is very dangerous for future of the state. But, he has a problem in the Presidency, since the actual acting Chairman is Mladen Ivanic, a Serb member who supports the idea of the soldiers participatiing in the parade.
In the end, Commander and Senior Military Representative of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Headquarters in BiH, Brigadier General Giselle M. Wilz, said on Friday that BiH Armed Forces must not participate in the parade and the ceremony as a whole.
“The regimental system, including the Third Infantry Regiment (Republika Srpska), was established on the basis of the agreement of all three constitutive people to create an approved mechanism for nurturing special legacies and traditions. According to that, all activities of the regiments have to be approved through the chain of command defined by the laws and regulations in the area of defense. The Minister of Defense was right not to approve participation of the Armed Forces BiH in the activities relating to the 9th of January”, Wilz said in an interview for local media.
She added that all soldiers and officers of the Armed Forces BiH are sworn to defend the constitutional order of BiH.
By her opinion, the Defense Law clearly says that activities which oppose the General Framework Agreement for Peace are the legal basis for dismissal from duty.
“Right now, the participation of any member of the Armed Forces BiH in any part of the program ‘Day of Republika Srpska’ on the 9th of January would constitute violation of BiH Defense Law: According to the Law, those persons would be subject to disciplinary action and dismissal from the military duty. Their action would have to be reviewed in the context of the Annex 1A of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in BiH”, Wilz said.
This statement didn’t help to defuse tensions and the results will be visible later. One of the solutions which was suggested by Serb citizens of BiH is that soldiers come and get fired. After that, BiH Armed Forces will have a problem to find new soldiers to fill that gap.
A second major problem in this situation is announcement that Serbian president, Tomislav Nikolic, will attend the ceremony along with Minister of foreign affairs in Serbian Government, Ivica Dacic. Serbian PM, Aleksandar Vucic, said that he will not visit Banja Luka at that day, since he will be in India, but ministers of his Government can freely decide whether they attend the parade or not. Just the announcement of Nikolic’s presence was condemned by Izetbegovic, and in that moment this situation got international character. Moreover, a few days ago Nikolic accepted an invitation to visit Sarajevo in February but this visit is under question. Bosniak politicians are trying to stop him from participating on january 9 ceremony but his answer was that one member of the BiH Presidency is not legitimate to decide where and when the President of Serbia would travel.
The most interesting thing in this situation is the silence of Croat representatives. The Croat member of BiH Presidency, Dragan Covic, just once since the beginning of this dispute gave a neutral statement which could be interpreted in different ways.
At the end of the day, the Croat opinion in this case most probably will be the most important one, since this opinion will represent the key for peace in this part of the region./IBNA