Bosnia swears in a three-man presidency dominated by nationalists

Newly elected members of Bosnia’s tripartite inter-ethnic presidency, Croat member Zeljko Komsic, Serb member Milorad Dodik and Bosniak member Sefik Dzaferovic, shake hands as they attend the presidential inauguration ceremony in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina November 20, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 20 November 2018

Bosnia swears in a three-man presidency dominated by nationalists

SARAJEVO: Bosnia swore-in its three new presidents on Tuesday, with all eyes on Serb nationalist Milorad Dodik, who will be the first to take the helm of a government riven by ethnic divides.
The three men will rotate seats every eight months under the complex peace deal that ended Bosnia's 1990s war and split power between its three main groups: Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks), Serbs and Croats.
In October voters chose nationalists to represent the first two communities, in a sign of how tribalism continues to shape politics more than two decades after the war.
The three men took their oaths inside Sarajevo's Presidency building before several dozen ambassadors and politicians.
Dodik, a pro-Russian politician who is sanctioned by the US, will co-lead with Bosnian Muslim president Sefik Dzaferovic, who hails from the nationalist conservative SDA party, and Croat president Zeljko Komsic.
Komsic, a Social Democrat, is an outlier among the two nationalists and has called for a "Bosnia of citizens" that would transcend communal divisions.
But he is already facing attacks from the main right-wing Croat party that accuses him of betraying his people and now threatens to obstruct activity in parliament.
"It is currently very difficult to find a common denominator between Dodik, Komsic and Dzaferovic for constructive work," Bosnian political journalist Ranko Mavrak said in a radio interview.
"These three will have to decide whether they want to act as a body that seeks points of agreement or creates problems," he added.
While the Dayton Peace Accords that designed Bosnia's power-sharing arrangement ended a devastating war, critics say the system has entrenched communal divisions and hampered effective governance.
The country's unwieldy government is further complicated by two separate administrations in its highly-autonomous sub-regions: one for Serbs and one shared by Croats and Bosnian Muslims.
Those so-called 'entities' are strung together by weak central institutions.
Dodik's elevation to the top office could mark another blow to the fabric of a country he has previously skewered as a "failed concept."
The firebrand led Bosnia's Serb-run half for over a decade and periodically threatened to hold a referendum on its secession.
Last year the US placed him on a blacklist for undermining the country's peace agreement.
The 59-year-old seemed to soften his tone slightly after he was elected to the national presidency, saying he wants to work with Bosnian Croats and Muslims "in the interest of all."
On Tuesday he repeated his assurance that he did not want to "act to the detriment of anyone" and wished for "effective cooperation".
Political analyst Tanja Topic said the politician appeared to be making a "conciliatory gesture," though "it is still difficult to say whether Dodik will be constructive and whether he will work in the interest of the state."
A day earlier Dodik had repeated his demands to undo parts of the Dayton Peace Accords, including shutting down the office of the High Representative -- an international envoy that has been sent by the UN since 1995 to oversee the peace deal.
"My policy is not changing, it's just my workplace that's changing," he said on Monday.
Among ordinary Bosnians, there is little hope for major changes in a paralysed political system that has allowed corruption to flourish and stalled economic reforms for years.
Unemployment affects up to one third of the country, where large numbers are migrating abroad for work.
"There's nothing more to expect here," said Almir Korjenic, a 32-year-old applying for a work visa at the Slovenian embassy, summing up a widespread sense of political fatigue.
"(The politicians) fought each other before the elections to position themselves well after the elections and resume looting the country," he said.

‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

Updated 09 July 2020

‘Political reconciliation’ with Pakistan top priority: Afghan envoy Daudzai

  • Pakistan played positive role in US-Taliban peace talks, says diplomat

PESHAWAR: Afghanistan’s newly appointed special envoy for Pakistan has had put “mending political relations” between the two estranged nations as one of his top priorities.

Mohammed Umer Daudzai, on Tuesday said that his primary focus would be to ensure lasting peace in Afghanistan and maintain strong ties with Pakistan, especially after Islamabad’s key role in the Afghan peace process earlier this year.

In an exclusive interview, the diplomat told Arab News: “Two areas have been identified to focus on with renewed vigor, such as lasting peace in Afghanistan and cementing Pak-Afghan bilateral ties in economic, social, political and other areas.”

In order to achieve these aims, he said, efforts would be intensified “to mend political relations” between the neighboring countries.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share a 2,600-kilometer porous border and have been at odds for years. Bonds between them have been particularly strained due to a deep mistrust and allegations of cross-border infiltration by militants.

Kabul has blamed Islamabad for harboring Taliban leaders after they were ousted from power in 2001. But Pakistan has denied the allegations and, instead, accused Kabul of providing refuge to anti-Pakistan militants – a claim rejected by Afghanistan.

Daudzai said his immediate priority would be to focus on “political reconciliation” between the two countries, especially in the backdrop of a historic peace agreement signed in February this year when Pakistan played a crucial role in facilitating a troop withdrawal deal between the US and the Taliban to end the decades-old Afghan conflict. “Afghanistan needs political reconciliation which the Afghan government has already been working on to achieve bottom-up harmony,” he added.

Daudzai’s appointment Monday by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani took place days after Islamabad chose Mohammed Sadiq as Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special representative for Afghanistan.

Reiterating the need to maintain strong bilateral ties with all of its neighbors, Daudzai said Pakistan’s role was of paramount importance to Afghanistan.

“Pakistan has a positive role in the US-Taliban peace talks, and now Islamabad could play a highly significant role in the imminent intra-Afghan talks. I will explore all options for a level-playing field for the success of all these initiatives,” he said, referring in part to crucial peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban which were delayed due to a stalemate in a prisoner exchange program – a key condition of the Feb. 29 peace deal.

Under the agreement, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and around 1,000 government prisoners were to be freed by March 10. So far, Afghanistan has released 3,000 prisoners, while the Taliban have freed 500. Daudzai said that while dates had yet to be finalized, the intra-Afghan dialogue could begin “within weeks.”

He added: “A date for intra-Afghan talks hasn’t been identified yet because there is a stalemate on prisoners’ release. But I am sure they (the talks) will be kicked off within weeks.”

Experts say Daudzai’s appointment could give “fresh momentum” to the stalled process and revitalize ties between the two estranged neighbors.

“Mohammed Sadiq’s appointment...could lead Kabul-Islamabad to a close liaison and better coordination,” Irfanullah Khan, an MPhil scholar and expert on Afghan affairs, told Arab News.

Daudzai said that he would be visiting Islamabad to kickstart the process as soon as the coronavirus disease-related travel restrictions were eased.

Prior to being appointed as the special envoy, he had served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan from April 2011 to August 2013.