Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bosnia unravels?

An editorial in NYT indicates that the Dayton Accord of 1995 that brokered peace and a de-centralized governance structure in the multi-ethnic Bosnia between Muslim Bosnians, Eastern Orthodox Serbs and Croat minority, may be about to unravel. It feels that the peace deal had "entrenched rather than eradicated deep divisions, and Bosnia’s political leaders continue to prey on their countrymen’s ethnic prejudices and insecurities".

In the aftermath of the collapse of Soviet Union and the end of Cold War, the American diplomats had embarked on a crusade to spread democracy and democratic values around the world, especially in failing and civil war prone countries. It was premised on the almost evangelical belief which suffused the entire foreign policy establishment at Foggy Bottom, that such neo-converts will stand by America and help promote American core interests and values.

The United Nations and other local multi-lateral agencies were used as instruments of this policy, to put up peace-keeping forces; engage the antagonists or comabatants in long drawn out talks; then broker peace deals, by a mixture of arm-twisting and aid sweetners, most of which never materialized; frame a constitution based on the hallowed universal principles of freedom, equality and justice, and outlining the power sharing agreements; hastily conduct multi-party elections to give a seal of democratic authority; and then instal a multi-ethnic coalition as agreed in the peace deal. This experiment was done in many countries across Africa, Eastern Europe and parts of Latin America.

In many respects, the Dayton accord was a classic throwback to the days of colonialism and on-the-table map-drawing, when imperial powers would construct nation states by carving out territorial jurisdictions based on ethnic and other sub-national considerations. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the US-brokered Dayton Agreements, similarly carved three separate sub-national political entities - Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska, and BrĨko District - in order to appease the three warring groups - Bosnian Bosniak Muslims, Christian Serbs and Christian Croats - respectively. However, as the article highlights, this latest experience only reiterates the impossibility of successfully cobbling together democratic governments in artificially created multi-ethnic states.

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