Bosnians Reunite Across the Divide

Bosnians are still coming to terms with their wounds of war from a generation ago. But incredibly, they are now coming together to fight injustice.

In March 2018, David Dragičević, a 21-year-old Bosnian Serb from Banja Luka, was found dead after being missing for six days. The police suspected suicide under the influence of drugs linking him to a burglary the night before he disappeared. Two years earlier, in Sarajevo, Dženan Memić, 22-year-old Bosniak, died in similarly suspicious circumstances, classified as a car accident by the prosecutor. But their fathers, Davor Dragičević and Muriz Memić, aren’t satisfied and have challenged the official versions, convinced their sons were murdered and that the police and the state authorities are protecting the perpetrators. But what is really remarkable is what happened next: In 2018, the deaths of David and Dženan have brought together the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

You probably think that it is quite normal to see people get together over the unexplained deaths of two young countrymen. But things have not been normal in Bosnia and Herzegovina for a long time.

Let me tell you more about my little country. Since the end of the 1992-1995 war, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a country ethnically and religiously divided and highly corrupt, where youth unemployment has hit almost 60%. The Dayton Accords signed in 1995 left a very complicated political system and the most unusual territorial organization in the world. I will try to explain this as simply as possible, but it’s anything but simple.

The country is divided into two entities – the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republic of Srpska. And there is also the third part, the self-governing Brčko district. Each has its own president, government, police force and parliament, with the three presidents ruling together as a kind of troika. To equalize power among Bosniaks, Bosnian Serbs and Croats, the elected presidents are rotating every eight months during their four-year term. So knowing this, you can understand why the country spends approximately half of its GDP on this bureaucratic machinery while becoming a fertile ground for corruption.

But why don’t we change this? This is a complicated and sensitive ques on. Despite the fact that the population is deeply discontent, the fear of a new conflict makes people cautious. The politicians, most in power since the war, are openly exploiting this status quo and keeping our once multiethnic society divided, poor and corrupted. But the death of these two young men triggered a kind of a catharsis. I was standing in the middle of the crowd of tens of thousands furiously chanting “Justice for David!”, “Justice for Dženan!” in parallel protests in Sarajevo and Banja Luka. It was emotional and liberating – the first time since the war that we had stood up united, not only in support of two grieving families, but also for our own future.

Those tragic events woke us up. We can forgive our politicians for destroyed factories and even for their prosperity at our expense. But we cannot and will not forgive them for what they are doing to our children.

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