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Rallies display divisions over Republika Srpska’s future

by Our Foreign Desk

TENS of thousands of Bosnian Serbs rallied at the weekend in rival demonstrations for and against their regional government in the northern city of Banja Luka.
Supporters of the pro-EU Alliance for Change accused Milorad Dodik’s government of corruption and dictatorship, saying that he has brought the Bosnian Serb enclave to the brink of financial collapse.
The alliance asserts that Serbs would fare better by co-operating with other nationalities on reforms to improve people’s lives and take Bosnia into the European Union.
Mr Dodik’s camp accuses the opposition of betraying Bosnian Serb national interests, which would be best served by seceding from Bosnia and creating a new state with close ties to Russia.
Bosnian Serbs fought for secession and unity with neighbouring Serbia in a 1992-95 war.
But the conflict ended with 100,000 dead and a peace agreement that left Bosnia’s external borders intact but divided the country into two regions — the Republika Srpska and the Bosniaks and Croat federation.
Each has its own state-like institutions while being linked by a joint government, a three-member presidency and a parliament.
Western authorities have repeatedly told Mr Dodik that self-determination is out of the question.
Both rallies featured former soldiers who fought for Republika Srpska, claiming their camp embodies the ideas of wartime leaders Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic.
Mr Mladic’s son appeared on the stage of the pro-government rally to greet Mr Dodik’s supporters, while Mr Karadzic’s daughter spoke on the other stage, greeting opposition backers.
Both claimed to be speaking on behalf of their fathers.
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