Let them eat baklava – Attitude of elite on the uprising in BiH | VladanBa's Blog

Let them eat baklava – Attitude of elite on the uprising in BiH

Političari BiH english

For better understanding of this text I recommend you to read the previous one: Introduction to Bosnian-Herzegovian uprising. Translation of original text Neka jedu baklave ili Odnos elite prema pobuni u BiH is done by Nenad Popović.

Even though The Economist magazine placed BiH on a list of countries with high risk of social unrest few people actually believed such things would come to realization. The moment when the usually divided groups of citizens gathered in Tuzla to express their collective dissatisfaction, a collective shock rang out which few managed to come to grips with. This moment gave courage to many citizens to rebel directly against the political elite and demand social changes. Individuals and groups that realizing they are not alone in understanding of the true issues reached a critical mass and allowed the unrest to expand to other cities too. Divided by an already ever present division and limitations, citizens who joined the protests were mostly from regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina with a prevalent Bosniak majority population, this prompted the political elite to reuse the already tried and true methods in dealing with this issue.

Political leaders were at first silent. Truly silent. Completely isolated in their own world, with no will to listen to their own citizens, they refused to meet the protesters or respond to the broader public. Those who did tried to speek with protesters relied on the old stories which only further angered already furious protesters, and spurred them to an even more aggressive resistance to the police, police which protected what elite has turned from a symbol of democracy to their very own bastion. When they finally released their statements, at the end of the worst day of protests, political leaders repeated old and already well known stories trough the media, confirming their autism and separation from the bigger part of their society.

Banner reads: Politicians you can all go to hell – paraphrased

Banner reads: Politicians you can all go to hell – paraphrased

Consequences of the citizens revolt in the form of stoned and burnt buildings have been labelled by political elite as attacks on the state and its institutions, even an attempt of coup. In their own frame of mind they are exactly right. Political elite in Bosnia and Herzegovina consider the country as their very own, even going as far as considering them self being the country. Therefore it’s only natural to consider that attacking them is the same as attacking the country. Saying that the citizens are only there to take that which has been occupied by the elite for private interests, the very notion, is incomprehensible to them. Meanwhile the attack on the institutions is not incomprehensible to them alone. In Bosnia and Herzegovina institutions are barely there, their function completely destroyed, devalued and subjected to ridicule by the elite. Legal and legitimate representatives of the citizens are not using these institutions to make important decisions, and then implement them. Instead various groups of selected few are making the most important decisions outside of institutions in various hotels and resorts, either domestic or abroad. Having that in mind, the attack on the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a matter of desire, it just doesn’t make any sense.

What the political elite managed to do, with great help from the mass media, is to take focus away from the issues raised by the protesters with stories about violence and vandalism, and dividing the protesters to violent and non violent ones, pitting former against the latter hoping the reason for the whole thing will be lost somewhere in the mess they created. Playing them self up as supporters of Ghandi-esque struggle, all the while many of them with thick files about their involvement in the last war, they accused the citizens of destroying public property and cultural historical heritage. Decades of destruction of the same property and the same cultural and historical heritage, either because of misuse of just negligence, elite is trying to push into the background with the expectation that citizens would forget about the slow decay now that they see flames on their TV screens. Damage estimates are still being formulated, but what is certain is that they will be negligible compared to the damages the elite inflicted on this country, which was the reason for the people to rebel in a first place.


Citizens of Tuzla cleaning up after the burning of a government building in Canton of Tuzla

Citizens cleaning up after the burning of a government building in Canton of Tuzla

Since the first days of the protest, three stories, from three camps, tailored for three ethnic groups started slowly appearing. In the following days only growing stronger. Bosniak were sold a story of Serbs and Croats inducing the protest. Serbs in an attempt to give credence to their long standing story of country’s instability and the necessity of an independent Republic of Srpska, and Croats in order to show the excessive cost and unsustainable of cantons, and to hopefully create a Croat entity in the process. Croats were told that it was all a ploy by the Bosniaks to get rid of cantons, losing of which would marginalize Croats in Federation of BiH. Serbs were told of a ploy by the Bosniaks, with support of Croats, to destabilize Republic of Serbs and to start realizing the plan of an unified Bosnia and Herzegovina. All these stories are not new, in various forms they have been repeated for a long time. But all of them carry one very interesting similarity. Neither one of these plans was ever anything but an simple idea mentioned from time to time. How would that idea be implemented, what steps should be taken, what are the time frames, trough which legal mechanisms would it be implemented remains unsaid and unknown.

When the elite managed to realize that the old story has lost it grasp on the citizens and made them extremely sceptical about the whole deal, they called for backup. Serbian backup was Aleksandar Vučić, a man holding the incredible title of first vice president of Republic of Serbia government, who used it for ongoing election campaign to present himself as the leader of all Serbs, and the peace maker between the current government and the opposition in Republic of Srpska. Croats were assisted by Zoran Milovanović, prime minister of Croatia, a social democrat coming to visit the Croat political right in Herzegovina even though in his own country he is fighting the same political right. Other then the fact that the representatives of the elite are always ready to come to each others aid, there is a more pressing reason for it, fear of the protest spilling over in to their own back yards. Convincing Serbs and Croats not to participate in what they consider Bosniak protest, that is putting the protest in an ethnic context, is of great importance to Vucićand Milanović. Not only will it help their partners in BiH by stopping the uprising spread to entire Bosnia and Herzegovina, but it will also stop the said protest expanding to their own countries, affecting their own influence. The protests spreading outside of Bosniak ethnic lines could very well lead to it spreading outside of Bosnia and Herzegovina borders. Since Bosniaks don’t have a spare country, there elite is left without anyone to call for help. However, they did receive help, with the arrival of foreign affairs minister of Turkey. The reason for his arrival is probably returning the favour for receiving support from Bosnia and Herzegovina, or the Bosniak part at least, during the uprising in their own country, and also to share Turkish experience and methods in stifling the voices of their own citizens, Turkish elite is very good at it. Surely that will be used to further exploit and strengthen thesis of the Islamization of Bosnia and Herzegovina among Serbs and Croats which is allegedly directed against them, so the already announced visit of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation of Banja Luka is there to make a balance in foreign influence of ethnic divisions.

Contribution of other countries, EU and international community, as they are usually referred to, should not be underestimated. Heartfelt message that the citizens have the right to voice their displeasure, but insisting on peaceful protests was universal among foreign dignitaries, those who hypocritically joined all the Ghandies of Bosnia and Herzegovina while being aware that the weapons produced in the EU are being used for killing of all sorts all over the world. Office of the High Representative (OHR), the protector of international community, briefly responded on the whole affair, not really saying anything, which is what they have been doing for years, just pandering to the leading elite. That was actually a very good message to the citizens not to count on international help, and that only they alone are capable of forcing social changes that would bridge the gap between the elite and them. I would say that the message was received loud and clear.

When the elite accepted that the protest are almost exclusively about social themes, even though they loathe to admit it, truly interesting theses started to emerge. First one was the idea that the uprising is not representative of the people since it was not lead by the unions. It is hard not to question of which unions, or better even, unions of what are they talking about. Every major company capable of having an influential union have been dismantled, destroyed, and sold for parts. Those left are either too small to wield any influence, or dependant on the political elite. The second theses was that these unrest will endanger foreign investments that are so needed. Those believing that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a stable country and there are some serious ongoing negotiations about foreign investment haven’t reached this part of the text, so I will not waste time disapproving this thesis.

What the elite has realized is that control of the subjugated is not going as easily as it once was, no matter the influence they exert over the media. It’s hard to say if their fundamental inability to understand social media, or internet in general, stems from local autism of the elite or the fact that they are out of touch with the progress made on international level. Whatever the reason, the fact is they are unable to engage in communication with their citizens in those new ways. On the other side citizens have realized that trough internet they are able to not only find and inform other citizens of meaningful messages outside of traditional media influences, but also verify the media stories. Media spins are a pillar of support to the ruling elite, disinformation being the second one, but during the uprising they had much less impact than before. I don’t doubt that in the future, in similar situations like this, there will be severe disruption of the internet and phone traffic, seeing how the Russian and Turkish elite came to help they must have passed on their own experience in dealing with such matters, they are good at it.

Newest way of spinning the story by the elite is offer of a false solution in the form of early elections, now they are polluting the airways with these ideas in order to stop discussion on the core of the problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They don’t realize, or are incapable of realizing, that the citizens don’t want another choice from the poor offering they had so far with very little difference in each choice, but to force the entirety of the political elite to stop their autistic approach to politics, and actually start their civil duty that was legally and legitimately awarded to them.

What surprised the elite and all those who are knowledgeable about Bosnia and Herzegovina, is the level of organization displayed by the citizens after the protests subsided. The speed with which the citizens organized plenums and started serious work with this method, shows a serious step has been taken to citizens grasping the evolution of democracy and the role which civil society plays in controlling the government. A group of enthusiasts established online and offline channels of communication which, still open to infiltration, are completely independent from the influence of the elite, and are being met with great interest and response from the citizens who after voicing their displeasure and anger on the streets are willing to start constructive work in order to affect social change.

Citizens plenum in Tuzla

Citizens plenum in Tuzla

The very disheartening fact is that academic community is completely ignoring the current events. Individuals that were already often present in public shared their vies and attitudes again and many joined citizen plenums, but academia as a whole remains autistic and apathetic to the current events. A part of them has of course coalesced with the political elite, not as leaders or advisers, but as servants. I am not sure how to explain the attitude towards their social role by the remaining part. Particularly interesting is silence of academia in the case of serious violation of the autonomy of the University of Tuzla during the police brutality over the citizens which shows lack of solidarity not just with society in general, but also within their own community.

While the elite is still trying turn current events in their own advantage, individuals within are redefining their positions, mercenaries are infiltrating, and the citizens using the mechanisms of direct democracy are insuring the fulfilments of their demands, I feel sorry for the fact that vital national interest and the national group of school subject are not material flammable things.

You can follow my tweets in English at @VladanBaEnglish.

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