The Power of Protest in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Throughout the course of history, protests have remained a constant fixture when citizens are displeased. Whether or not it’s protests on taxes and acts that directly led to our nation’s founding or the Arab Spring protests that still continue to transcend Africa and the Middle East, protests have revealed just how powerful unpleased citizens can be.

Citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina began protests in February, as citizens became frustrated with the mass unemployment, poverty and corruption that followed the country after nearly 20 years of lethargy as its civil war came to a close. Jasmin Mujanović, a Ph.D. candidate at York University studying Bosnia’s development, sees them as a crucial step in the country’s slow return to normalcy.

“I think these protests are, in a way, the most significant thing to happen to Bosnia since the war,” Mujanović said. “At the end of the day, a country does not actually democratize until that comes from the bottom-up.”

Video Produced by: Rob Riches

Signed in 1995, the Dayton Accords served their purpose to bring an end to Bosnia’s civil war. They were also utilized as a backbone to help the country reconstruct itself in its aftermath. But it’s evident that not much progress has been made in reconstruction, enraging citizens.

“The Dayton Accords are often held up as one of, if not, the best peace accords in modern history,” Mujanović said. “After the agreement was signed and implemented, there was no return to violence in Bosnia.

“It’s clear that Dayton is not actually a functioning constitution,” Mujanović said. “It was a functioning constitution for a country that was a year removed from war. It was a stopgap.”

Nonetheless, Bosnia’s protests have proven to be an accelerated yet efficient effort, starting out as street-level protests and quickly becoming assemblies for the people.

“I don’t know of any other case in the world where something like this has happened so quickly,” Mujanović said. “You get an absolute explosion of rage and anger, and then within a day or two, you get the emergence of citizen assemblies that thousands of people attend, and collectively and autonomously issue demands of the government.

“If you’re a scholar of democracy and take democracy seriously, this has got to be some sort of candyland dream,” he added.

As of now, not much change has resulted yet from these protests. But given time, they have what it takes to truly transform Bosnia’s political landscape.

“The political education that’s happening right now in those assemblies,” Mujanović said, “is going to have massive, massive reverberations throughout Bosnian political history and Bosnian political present moving forward.”

Written by: Rob Riches

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