Bosnian Serbs want their own army, their leader says

Bosnian Serbs want to form their own army, their political leader has said, in a move that could further exacerbate a political crisis that erupted with the boycott of the Balkan country’s main political institutions by the Serbs.

“We will withdraw consent for the (joint) army” in a vote in the Republika Srpska parliament, Milorad Dodik, who is the Serb member of Bosnia’s presidency, said late Monday.

The move could be decided “in the next few days” and the army of the Republika Srpska could be set up “within a few months,” he told reporters.

Bosnia’s joint presidency comprises three members — a Croat, Serb and Muslim — and is the commander of the country’s armed forces. 

Since the end of 1992-1995 war, which claimed some 100,000 lives, Bosnia is made up of two semi-independent parts — the Serb-run Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation, linked by weak central institutions, including a presidency and a joint army. 

Set up in 2006 under pressure from the international community, the Bosnian army currently has around 10,000 soldiers and civilian employees.

Its creation was seen as a crucial step towards Bosnia’s territorial integrity, which Dodik has frequently challenged. 

However, the Croat member of the presidency, Zeljko Komsic, hit out at Dodik’s proposals.

“It is a criminal act of rebellion,” he told Sarajevo radio on Tuesday.

Dodik has frequently called for secession of the Republika Srpska, arguing that Bosnia was an “experiment by the international community” and an “impossible, imposed country”.

Since July, Bosnian Serbs have been boycotting the country’s main political institutions in protest over a ban on genocide denial imposed by the then international community’s top envoy to the country, Austrian Valentin Inzko.

The current top envoy, German politician Christian Schmidt, has wide executive powers allowing him to impose laws and sack elected officials

The 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim males in Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces has been deemed genocide by international courts.

But Serb leaders usually deny that the atrocity amounted to genocide, instead calling it a “great crime”.