As part of our Inside Conflict initiative, TransConflict Serbia organised a study-visit to Banja Luka for a group of American students participating in the SIT Study Abroad Programme – Peace and Conflict Studies in the Balkans.
From March 23-24 March 2011, TransConflict Serbia organized a study-visit to Banja Luka for a group of American students participating in the SIT Study Abroad Programme – Peace and Conflict Studies in the Balkans. The visit was preceded by a series of lectures on the Dayton Peace Agreement and post-Dayton Bosnia and Herzegovina, delivered by Mirjana Kosić, TransConflict Serbia’s executive director.
The two-day visit to Banja Luka proceeded with a talk with Vlatko Vukotić, a journalist and editor of the information desk of Alternativna televizija (ATV), who provided a detailed insight into the current political crisis in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, its impact on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH) political dynamics and the decisions of the Republika Srpska authorities, and the overall effect of these developments on the state of BiH. Mr. Vukotić commented on the recent spate of social protests in Banja Luka – describing them as a positive indication of greater social and civic awareness amongst citizens – and the response of the RS Government to suggestions of further social unrest. Mr. Vukotić concluded by saying that a major part of media reporting in BiH today is highly ethno-national centric and biased, and emphasised the importance of independent, responsible and accountable media.
Following Alternativna televizija (ATV), the students visited the site of Ferhadija mosque, which was originally built in 1574 but destroyed at the onset of the civil war in BiH in early May 1992. The mosque is currently being reconstructed after years of persistent efforts on the part of Bosniak returnees in Banja Luka and pressure from the international community. The students were greeted by a representative of Bosniak community, who told the story of Ferhadija mosque and reminded the students of BiH’s historic multi-culturality and tolerance; a trait which is almost extinct today. Responsible for maintaining the adjacent building, he reiterated the importance of rebuilding the mosque as a symbol of human suffering and an important reminder that the atrocities of the war must never be repeated.
The next meeting was with the OSCE’s office in Banja Luka, whose national representatives delivered a series of presentations on the objectives and role of the OSCE in a post-conflict, transitional society such as BiH; including a focus on the Mission’s work on issues such as human rights, education, judicial reform and good governance. The students also had an opportunity to ask questions, comment and engage in an open discussion on a number of pertinent issues, ranging from the current political impasse in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country’s dire economic situation, the divided education system comprised of different curricula, the problems of segregation, the position of national minorities and the challenges of constitutional reform.
The first day was concluded by a meeting with representatives from the NGO BUNIQA, Nela Sladojević and Tihomir Dakić, who presented the organization’s current activities and their motivation to engage in and promote youth activism throughout BiH, as one of the key preconditions for reconciliation and peaceful co-existence of all of its ethno-national groups.
On the second day the students visited the offices of Buka, an on-line portal for cultural decontamination, where they were welcomed by Aleksandar Trifunović, editor-in-chief, and Elvir Padalović, a journalist. Mr. Padalović discussed the current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina from both a personal and professional perspective, and focused in particular on the difficulties and obstacles to independent media reporting in the Republika Srpska.
This was the fourth such visit organized by TransConflict Serbia, designed to promote a thorough understanding of the challenges facing Bosnia and Herzegovina today as it strives to reform its constitution and progress towards membership in the European Union.
TransConflict offers a range of specially-tailored educational visits that provide unique insights and perspectives on inter-ethnic conflict throughout the Western Balkans. To learn more about our Inside Conflict initiative, please click here.
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