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The Disintegration of Bosnia and Herzegovina

From Ethnic Cleansing to Ethnified Governance


Alim Baluch

This book argues that the «international community» created and managed the dysfunctional state of Bosnia and Herzegovina by effectively rewarding ethnic cleansing, drawing up a transitional constitution which, in turn, generated a complex ethnifying polity incapable of independent reform. This constitution, which was only added as an annex to the Dayton Peace Agreement, has continued to encourage ethnification, understood in this book as the reproduction of imagined communities of descent.

While accepting that foreign interference was necessary to end the war in the late 1990s, the book offers a critical review of the actions of the Office of the High Representative of the International Community (OHR) and other foreign actors since that period. It includes meticulous examination of hundreds of OHR decisions, as well as secret diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks revealing how the US embassy intervened in the country's trade and foreign policy.

Drawing on a process-sociological perspective, the book interrogates the notion of ethnicity and offers a radical new perspective on post-war state-building in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Chapter 1: Introduction


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Disintegration is not a suddenly occurring event, it is a process that not only counterbalances the forces of integration which keep Bosnia and Herzegovina together; rather, it seems to become the dominant direction of travel. This book examines how post-war international rule has unintentionally planted a seed of disintegration which is almost impossible to reverse.

The subject of institutional influence exerted by international organizations on governance in a federal polity is one that has been widely researched, yet nevertheless remains of vital importance to shed light on contemporary single cases such as post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). This study examines how international rule, first and foremost exerted by the Office of the High Representative of the International Community (OHR) and the United States Government, has turned the war zone BiH into a post-war confederation sui generis with a severely flawed constitution. Moreover, the supervision of the OHR, which has developed from a hyperactive interventionist body to a lethargic observer and mediator, has by no means had the desired effect of transforming the country into a functioning democracy.

The OHR was established with Annex 10 of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) in 1995 to monitor its implementation on behalf of the “international community”. In December 1997, the competencies of the OHR were equipped with the so-called Bonn Powers, that is, the authority to remove any individual from public office and to substitute the legislative branch on all...

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