Bosnia: Only Real Politics Matters – OpEd


In response to Jasmin Mujanović’s article, “Jim Crow in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, which called for “a genuine popular mobilization”, Dusan Babić argues that real politics are the only politics that truly matter.

By Dusan Babic

Despite strongly rejecting my remarks about spreading fantasies and illusions in “Bosnia – I have a dream too”, Jasmin Mujanovic continues to do it in his new article, entitled “Jim Crow in Bosnia and Herzegovina”. This time, his open call for a revolutionary acts were replaced with “a genuine popular mobilization” syntagma.

No one would be more pleased than myself to witness the emergence of a “unifying, grassroots counter-narrative in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, but the April 1992 protests were unfolding in a totally different socio-political, cultural and historic context. Namely, at the time, Yugoslavia was at least formally still alive, and that fact was an incentive to try to preserve the country. Two decades on, everything in this war-torn country has been changed. The demographic composition of the country has been dramatically reshaped; decisively affecting all aspects of life, and ways of conducting politics in particular.

Meanwhile, the world has dramatically changed too; in particular in the context of September 11th. The so-called ‘War on Terror’ has made the world more dangerous, and has affected basic human rights and liberties worldwide. We are witnessing a human rights inversion, with its impacts visible in the deepening divisions among peoples of different ethnic backgrounds and faiths, and in the spread of new seeds for local, regional and global conflict. Combined with the legacy of the 1992 to 1995 war, the situation in post-Dayton Bosnia is even more complicated and complex, and will not be resolved by means of “a genuine popular mobilization”.

Jasmin assets that “clearly, however, the Bosnian peoples are not themselves blind to these processes”; namely, being stripped of any political power. I very much doubt this, for many reasons. First, the level of general culture is very poor, implying that their political culture is practically non-existent. Put simply, there is no critical mass ready to radically change the political ambiance. Under such circumstances, even young lions cannot do much. Second, the global political settlement is basically anti-democratic, denying ordinary citizens the opportunity to participate in politics. Laws almost everywhere are written to legalize favorable status of political elites at the expense of the poor and lower classes. That’s why the very term democracy has lost its original meaning.

“In 2012 little boys and girls are still attending segregated schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is no fantasy or illusion, this is a nightmare”, Jasmin goes on to add. Segregated schools – or more precisely, “two schools under one roof” – are our sad reality too. However, and though this might sound paradoxical, the “two schools under one roof” formula was the only solution left for Bosnian Croats to have their own curriculum. It was their last resort to preserve their ethnic and cultural identity. In this context, to entitle the article “Jim Crow in Bosnia and Herzegovina” was somewhat perverse.

For readers unfamiliar with the American history of racism, Jim Crow is not a person, but a stereotype of African Americans. This name symbolizes the racial caste system, and represents the legitimization of anti-black hysteria in America. Whilst Jasmin claims that it is “utterly absurd to invoke King in a conversation about Bosnia and then not draw the parallels between the Jim Crow period in America and post-Dayton Bosnia”, I mentioned King only in the context of his dreaming about better America, as I was dreaming about a better Bosnia. And whilst Jasmin insists that “political legitimacy can only come from the participation of the people themselves”, this ideal political formula has not worked for centuries.

In brief, in this complex, cruel, unjust and unfair world, real politics are the only politics that truly matter. To reiterate, nothing revolutionary can be done; we can only pursue step-by-step moves that respect country specific approaches to promoting and fostering a spirit of tolerance and developing a process of reconciliation. And what is particularly important is how we report on this; whether information about the reconciliation process is being communicated effectively.

Dusan Babic is a Sarajevo-based media and political analyst.


TransConflict was established in response to the challenges facing intra- and inter-ethnic relations in the Western Balkans. It is TransConflict’s assertion that the successful transformation of conflict requires a multi-dimensional approach that engages with and aims at transforming the very interests, relationships, discourses and structures that underpin and fuel outbreaks of low- and high-intensity violence.

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