by Maja BJELAJAC
Those between whom trust was to be renewed, after six years, were separated by Police cordons.
The adrenalin of Serb knights, in places assisted by alcohol, was first expressed by throwing eggs towards the Islamic religious community building.
As the mob got more excited and incited, instigated first by the sound of trumpets and "the March on the Drina", and then explicit songs sung by Olivera Katarina ("Romanija mountain, protect our brother Radovan") the anger increased and as a wave spread towards those who at first only with approval watched this "happening of the people". Stones flew. Each time one of them hit a target, the mob exploded with joy. "$250 for those who put up the flag!" someone shouted in the crowd.
At one point the mob shook up and the police cordon was pierced. Protesters managed to take down the Muslim flag and the Serb flag "victoriously" flew from the medzlis building. The violence exploded. Twenty, mostly elderly people were beaten up, several Bosniak buses were set on fire, windows on the building of the Islamic community were totally smashed. The humor of the extreme nationalists was enriched by another picturesque detail. Some "jokester" let a pig loose on the grass in front of the building in which Bosniaks were imprisoned.
"The renewal of trust" resulted in several bloody epilogues. The mob got hold of an old man. Blows with shoes in the face, kidneys, belly. Two policemen intervened only when everything was over. They picked up the bloodied elderly man and carried him to the first car. Someone from the crowd shouted sarcastically: "Give him mouth to mouth, may he fuck you!"
Multiethnicity: The same night images from Banja Luka were broadcast all over the world. Burning Bosniak buses were shown on BBC, CNN and other news programs immediately after the news from Israel.
A painful sobering up followed twenty four hours later. Both for the protesters and the authorities in Srpska and her citizens. Disturbances in Banja Luka, after a similar incident in Trebinje, put forward a very serious question to the Bosnian public. Is this violence the true picture of multiethnic reality in Bosnia-Hercegovina or is that a "less typical" political scenario?
Most international officials condemned these incidents as an act of "extreme nationalist groups". Even some Bosniaks who had an opportunity to personally experience this "multiethnicity" do not want to generalize the problem. "We know that these were not true citizens of Banja Luka, because true citizens of Banja Luka were not bothered by either the mosque or the Muslims. These are troglodytes who must leave our homes," believes former inhabitant of Banja Luka E.H., who today lives in Kljuc.
Despite everything, the incident in Banja Luka was not an indication of the multiethnic concept of Bosnia-Hercegovina as far as some of the international officials were concerned.
"Five years is a brief period, but the opinions are most extreme in those part of the country where people did not have contact with other ethnic communities. If the international community allowed the time to take its natural course, the situation would not necessarily be any better. Therefore, it is necessary to provide that opportunity as soon as possible. We cannot say that it is 'too early' and simply do nothing. In five years, lacking inter-ethnic contact, opinions will be even more extreme. Therefore, we have to build a healthy political system that will protect ethnic minorities," claims an American official from Brussels and adds that the only alternative is that "the international community abandon Bosnia-Hercegovina, but that will not happen, as too much has already been invested."
This was confirmed by the international officials in Bosnia-Hercegovina by reactions that followed after the incidents in Banja Luka. Even though all of them expressed consternation and outrage regarding violence that on May 7 escalated in the capital of Srpska, and only two days earlier in Trebinje, their determination to continue with reforms in Bosnia-Hercegovina was not shaken by these events. Thus, High Representative for BH Wolfgang Petritsch assessed that these were the last attempts of chauvinists to stop the implementation of the peace process in BH and to prevent the return of refugees. Petritsch promised the returnees "that 1992 will not be repeated," and reaffirmed the determination of the international community to persist in its reforms at the first meeting with the Srpska authorities. "After the meeting I had with Sarovic, Cavic, Ivanic and Kalinic, I expect concrete measures on their part as soon as tomorrow. I've had enough of empty declarations," Petritsch stated after a meeting with the Srpska leadership. He demanded that they find and punish those responsible for the incidents in Banja Luka and Trebinje, including the instigators of the disturbances; that all those who had political responsibility for the security of these gatherings be held responsible; a public apology from the political leadership; organization of ceremonies at both locations by the Srpska leadership; that Srpska face war crimes committed there during the war, establish an inter-ethnic commission that would work on that and cooperate with the Hague Tribunal; full and public support for the construction of the memorial to the victims of Srebrenica; active participation of the local authorities in the arrests of persons indicted for war crimes; active support for the return of displaced persons and refugees; full support to the institution of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Culprits: Only a few days after the disturbances in Banja Luka, the international community was given a chance to reiterate to the leadership of the Republic of Srpska goals that it had expected since the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, and in parallel with that to without much trouble wipe away political forces that are resisting imposed standards. The High Representative even stated that, if the mentioned conditions are not fulfilled, he would use all instruments at his disposal.
Although the leaders of the "most criticized" party [SDS] on May 7 in Banja Luka ended up being a "buffer" between the Bosniaks and international officials on the one hand and the protesters and bullies on the other, the international community mechanically found culprits for the incident in the ranks of the SDS, without offering any evidence for such claims. The public immediately started to speculate with possible dismissals of the highest officials of the SDS and a ban of that party, which was publicly mentioned by some international officials as a possibility. The debate moved to the institutions of Bosnia-Hercegovina (House of Nations of the Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina), where a ban of the SDS was demanded. After the incident in Banja Luka, the ideas about the abolishment of the Republic of Srpska, which had until then only been advocated by some political parties from the Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, became a part of the arsenal of threats used against already cornered leaders of the Republic of Srpska. Although the High Representative did not publicly articulate this threat, the leaders of Srpska who participated in that meeting did not deny that he mentioned this possibility as well.
And while the international community pointed its finger at the SDS< the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Srpska was working on finding the instigators of the disturbances in Banja Luka and Trebinje. Although the final results of the investigation haven't been made public, Reporter's sources in the Police confirmed that several members of the Serb Radical Party were seen among the protesters. Another information from the same source, according to which some members of the former Secret State Service, escaped in 1997 to Serbia, were also seen at the protests, additionally "spices up" the stew. Their boss, Ljuban Ecim, was seen only three days before the demonstrations in one restaurant in Banja Luka. Reporter's source does not claim that there is a direct link between his visit to Banja Luka and the disturbances that followed, but is nevertheless that the timing of the visit is not entirely coincidental.
The very same day (on May 7) at 9:30pm an explosive device was thrown in the courtyard of the Orthodox Church in Sanski Most, after which two persons were taken into custody and the perpetrator was identified. At the same time, there were several attacks on Serb returnees in Sanski Most.
In Kljuc the protesters blocked a road on May 7 protesting against residents of Kljuc who were cut off in Banja Luka. A day later, protesters in Sarajevo tried to cross the inter-entity border in districts Dobrinja 1 and 4 protesting against the events in Banja Luka, but were stopped by the Police.
A demonstration was held in Sarajevo on May 9 near the OHR building. The protesters demanded to be addressed by one of high officials of the OHR and to be promised that harsh measures would be taken against Serb extremists who participated in the demonstrations in Banja Luka.
A chapel and about fifteen graves were damaged at the Orthodox cemetery Trnovac in Tuzla on May 9. The Police have initiated the investigation.
In Vrace near Sarajevo, a group of protesters stoned a house in which ethnic Serbs live.