Bosnian Independence…. for half of us?

For the half of us living in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of Bosnia’s split from Yugoslavia.  If you’re in another part of the country then it’s a different story.  Kind of crazy that half of the country claims we’re independent today and the other half says it was back in January.  ‘Tis why Bosnia is so complex, interesting, and frustrating all in the same day.  Here’s what we [ghost writer, Julia Dowling, thank you very much] think at the Center for Peacebuilding:

What Bosnian Independence Means to Me

Today, the 1st of March, half of Bosnia and Herzegovina is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the country’s independence.  For the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the majority Bosniak and Croat entity within the country, businesses are closed, transportation on a holiday schedule, and citizens recognize the day the country declared its split from Yugoslavia in 1992.

For the other half of Bosnia and Herzegovina however, the Serb-majority Republika Srpska, it is business as usual.  Independence day for Republika Srpska is instead held January 9th, when the Republic of the Serb People of Bosnia and Herzegovina was proclaimed in 1992.

In many ways, today symbolizes the deep divide the peoples of Bosnia face despite a decade and a half between the cessation of war and the present.  The federal government barely functions and, because of years of barriers to ethnic cooperation, our citizens are growing farther apart from one another instead of growing together for a promising future.

The Center for Peacebuilding is working on reestablishing communication and building trust within divided communities.  Last Thursday, we took the first step in planning our newest project Truth, Healing, and Reconciliation in Community with a roundtable discussion between local community members.  This project will create a safe space in which individuals of every ethnic identity can share their personal war story as others support and bear witness to a truth different than their own.  Our grassroots story-telling will begin to heal the wounds of war that everyone living in Bosnia carries.  As one round-table attendee noted, “we must build a house from the foundation stone up.”  Person by person and story by story, the project will provide the mortar that binds the bricks together, the reconciliation that people of Bosnia desperately need.

This may be one of CIM’s most challenging projects – it will be the first initiative of its kind in the Balkans – but the deep need for local reconciliation calls us to continue despite skepticism and criticism coming from all sides.  As our project develops, we’ll be sure to post news and updates.  Thank you for your continued support and being peacebuilders in your own hearts and communities.

In Peace,
Vahidin Omanovic, Co-Director
Center for Peacebuilding/Centar za Izgradnju Mira