Milorad Dodik Speech Sparks Protest
Written by Bwog Staff
Yesterday evening President of Republika Srspska Milorad Dodik gave a lecture titled “An American Foreign Policy Success Story: The Dayton Accords, Republika Srpska and Bosnia’s European Integration.” Dodik has attracted controversy over statements about the Yugoslav wars. Specifically, Dodik holds that the Tulza Massacre was staged, questions the reports of the Markale massacres, and, though he does not deny that the killings took place, does not consider the Srebrenica Massacre an act of genocide.
Beginning at noon a group of students and other protesters gathered on the Low steps, chanting and bearing banners. Some stayed until the speech was over to chant as Dodik left the library seven hours later. Opposition to his speaking engagement had been circulating earlier this week in academic and Bosniak expat fora, yet on campus publicity for the event seems to have been minimal. Though the event was open to the public, many non-students who registered online were turned away at the door.
President Dodik’s speech focused on the issue of autonomy for Republika Srpska. Srpska (not to be confused with the country of Serbia) is not an independent country, but one of two autonomous entities (along with the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) that make up the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as Bosnia. The main difference between the two entities is ethnic: Srpska is mostly made up of Serbs, while the Federation is full of Bosniaks and Croats.
This confusing state of affairs is a result of the 1995 Dayton Accords, which ended the Bosnian War by creating the decentralized state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The hope was that the ethnic and religious divides between Serbs and Bosniaks could be overcome if the two groups were part of the same country. But Dodik objects to this idea. He insisted that the Dayton Accords gave great autonomy to Republika Srpska, and it is only recently that “foreigners” have been trying to infringe on his sovereignty by giving the central government of Bosina and Herzegovina more power. While he acknowledged that “peace is the basis of any future solution,” he also argued that “a unified government [of Bosnia Herzegovina] will lead the country to war.” Clearly, he will not be happy until Republika Srpska is its own nation, which is unlikely to happen.
Many Bosnians see Dodik’s desire for a separate Republika Srpska as a dangerous example of Serb nationalism and racism, but Dodik does not see it that way. “I’m not spreading hate speech,” he explained in response to one audience question, “I have a lot of Bosniak friends!” Bosnians also object to Dodik’s whitewashing of genocide. Last night, he tried to dismiss the Srebenica massacre by pointing out that “there were crimes happening elsewhere, too.” After an audience member who asked why Republika Srpska sent a government plane to pick up a convicted war criminal from the Hague, he indignantly replied that “it’s my jet and I can do whatever I want with it!”
Dodik’s chief concern is with the way the international community treats Serbs. He’s worried that Serb culture and nationalism is inextricably linked to genocide, and he’s offended by the idea that Serbs should be kept in the same country as Bosniaks and Croats so they can learn to get along with them instead of killing them. But that does not excuse the insensitivity of excusing war crimes and wanting to secede from a country just to get away from a different ethnic and religious group. Dodik’s speech was interesting, but not terribly convincing.