A rehearsal for the controversial January 9 celebration took place in Banja Luka, the administrative centre of Bosnia’s Serb-majority region, on Wednesday.
Top officials of the Republika Srpska (RS) semi-autonomous entity laid flowers at a monument to the fallen soldiers of the Army of Republika Srpska, with the head of the RS Government, Radovan Viskovic, saying that the event is meant to “honour those who are most responsible for the creation of Republika Srpska.”
The Constitutional Court banned the January 9th celebration of the Day of the RS in 2015, granting an appeal by Bakir Izetbegovic, who was at that time the Bosniak member of the country’s tripartite Presidency. The reason stated was that the celebration falls on the same date as an Orthodox religious holiday, and celebrating it is, therefore, discriminating against the mostly Muslim Bosniaks and the mostly Catholic Croats.
But RS leadership then organised a referendum in the entity at which the predominantly Serb citizens voted in favour of January 9th staying the date for the holiday.
Despite the Constitutional Court ruling, the RS Government adopted in 2016 a Law on the holiday which says it will take place on that date.
According to the Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency and the leader of the ruling party in the RS, Milorad Dodik, RS citizens have good reasons to be proud for the creation and existence of Republika Srpska.
“We survived the most difficult times, the time of war and the post-war period, when we had to persistently politically fight for our status which was seriously in jeopardy. The desecration of the RS was stopped and we intend to reclaim its constitutional position as is stated in the Dayton Peace Agreement,” Dodik said.
“This will lead all of our political activities in the coming period. I believe we all agree on this,” he added.
But others in Bosnia, mostly Bosniaks, see January 9 as the beginning of the massacres in the country in 1992 which led to the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.
RS Vice-President Ramiz Salkic, a member of the main Bosniak party in the country (the Party for Democratic Action, SDA), warned that the RS Government insisting on celebrating January 9 is unconstitutional, illegal and immoral.
He called upon Bosnia’s international administrator, High Representative Valentin Inzko, to sanction those who are organising the celebration.