Over the weekend, Reis Kavazovic made some observations about the threat to BiH institutions, which included a statement that “we must be ready to defend this country even with arms.” Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik responded, complaining that as the leader of a religious institutions Reis Kavazovic should “promote peace and tolerance.” We received several press inquiries regarding the exchange, which we believe warrants something more than a couple of sentences in reply.
Let’s start with the first part of the Reis’ observation that there are ongoing attempts to undermine the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is right. These attacks are coming from within by political leaders, such as Milorad Dodik, who frequently attacks the state in word and deed, often calling BiH itself into question. Recently he labeled BiH a “Muslim lie.” He regularly implies that he will separate the Republika Srpska from BiH. Are his words meaningless? Are his listeners not supposed to take him seriously? If so, perhaps he should say so, and they can tune him out from now on. If not, then it should come as no surprise that after myriad attacks, verbal and otherwise, by Milorad Dodik on Bosnia and Herzegovina that some of its citizens believe that a time may come when they will need to defend it from him.
The attacks on the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina are also coming from within, by political leaders and parties who are more interested in leading and managing these institutions for their own political and financial profit. We are not certain if the Reis was referring to this as well, but if he was, he was right. There is nothing remotely pro-BiH about politicizing security institutions, about corrupting prosecutors and judges to secure personal protection, or about securing seats in legislative bodies in underhanded, anti-democratic ways. Genuinely pro-BiH political leaders and parties would seek to provide the institutions they lead with efficient, effective, and accountable governance. They would safeguard the integrity of these hard-won bodies for their children and grandchildren.
The call and response that dominates political discourse in BiH is deeply destructive to the country and its social fabric. The United States has condemned it for years, and we continue to condemn it, whether the words come from political or religious leaders. It is especially disappointing when any religious leader implies or threatens violence as a solution to BiH’s problems. The suggestion that there is greater need for “peace and tolerance” in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a good one, but this prescription must apply as much to BiH’s political leaders as it does its religious leaders, not least Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik.
The United States urges today’s leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina not to gamble with peace a second time.