By Elvira Jukic
Republika Srpska, one of the two entities that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina, is celebrating its founding on Monday with a number of events in Banja Luka. The celebration has prompted condemnations from some in the other entity, the mainly Bosniak-Croat federation.
The events began Monday morning with a church service held by the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej, who blessed the entity as “the youngest Serb state”. The liturgy was followed by the awarding of the orders of Republika Srpska, RS.
RS President Milorad Dodik awarded Medals of Honour to Serbian President Boris Tadic, former RS presidents Rajko Kuzmanovic, Nikola Poplasen, Dragan Cavic and Mirko Sarovic, as well to as six Orthodox priests from five regions in Bosnia.
Tadic said the award is a commitment to a more intensive collaboration on both sides of the Drina river, the natural border between Bosnia and Serbia.
“The collaboration should not only connect Serbs, but all the ethnic groups and people,” Tadic said, adding that his country will guarantee the Dayton Peace Accords by supporting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
He said the reward reflected his personal commitment to maintain special relations between Serbia and Republika Srpska through building bridges and roads, and promoting cooperation on education, science and energy.
Dodik was also planning to honour Edhem Camdzic, the main Muslim imam of Banja Luka, but Camdzic refused to accept the award, saying he cannot do so while Bosniaks, who are mainly Muslims, are not satisfied with the respect of their human rights in the RS.
Among the other guests at today’s celebrations will be Serbian PM Mirko Cvetkovic, his deputy and Interior Minister Ivica Dacic and Serbian Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic.
Dodik, meanwhile, was presented the Service Medal by the Russian ambassador to Bosnia, Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, an honour bestowed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
At the ceremony in Banja Luka, Dodik said the RS was “created by the will of the Serb people- expressed in a plebiscite- in a peaceful way, by the decisions of parliament members in the Assembly of Serb People of Bosnia, as a result of an historic need, not war.”
“We want to continue our good relations with brother Serbia, Russia, Israel, EU and the USA,” Dodik said, “but we cannot forget our compatriots in Kosovo and we once again give support to Serbia.”
The January 9 celebration was not welcomed by some in Bosnia.
The Alternative Club of Trebinje, a town in southern RS, said it is about time the entity’s leadership accepts that the RS is not a country.
Blazo Stevovic, the president of the Alternative Club, told Sarajevo media that “the celebration organised by Milorad Dodik is a culmination of the circus called RS and the capitulation of the mind.”
Mujo Hadziomerovic, a Bosniak member of the Council of the People of RS, one of the entity’s houses of parliament, said in a press release he does not celebrate January 9. He explained that that does not mean he is rejecting RS, but only the date.
“The history of Bosnia does not begin with the Dayton Peace Accords, but for the RS entity obviously it does,” said Hadziomerovic, adding that celebrating January 9 is “an attempt to sweep away the roots of Bosnia, a country with a thousand-year-old history and dates and events.”
Some in Bosnia’s mainly Bosniak-Croat federation have condemned the celebration of the entity’s creation.
Bakira Hasecic, a member of an association of Bosniak victims of war, told daily Dnevni Avaz that it is a shame that January 9 is a day for celebration because, according to her, it is a day of the biggest war crime in Europe since the WWII. Hasecic called the RS “the biggest mass grave in the entire world, full of Bosniak bones, blood and suffering.”
Miro Lazovic, a member of the Bosnian assembly before the war, told media in Sarajevo that the current political leadership in RS made a mistake celebrating January 9, because they showed that they accepted the heritage of Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Momcilo Krajisnik, wartime Serb political and military leaders.
Republika Srpska was founded after the Serb leadership formed an assembly and proclaimed the Republic of the Serb People of Bosnia and Herzegovina on January 9, 1992. The ‘republic’ was later renamed Republika Srpska.
The first president of Republika Srpska was Radovan Karadzic, who was later indicted for war crimes committed during the war in Bosnia and is currently on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.