The city of Tuzla, once a thriving powerhouse of Bosnian industry, has become a hotbed of protest.
Twenty-two people, including 17 police officers were injured when demonstrators clashed with police over the closure of local factories and firms on February 5. Twenty-four people were arrested.
Damir Arsenijevic, a professor at Tuzla university, explained: “The people of Tuzla have finally said that they have had enough of the nepotism, the corruption and the unprofessional government. A government that for the past 20 years, hasn’t listened to the people and their anger.”
Under socialist Yugoslavia, Tuzla was a hub for the metals and chemical industries. Today, the city is home to one in five of Bosnia’s unemployed.
Many of the grievances of today’s protesters have their roots in a deal reached in 1995 to end several years of ethnic warfare. The accord, signed in the US, divvied up power to order to stop fighting between Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosniaks.
The result was two political entities within one country: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina – and Republika Srpska, often called the Serb Republic. Each is divided into cantons and regions. It is a labyrinthine power structure that frequently paralyses government.
The autonomous Serb Republic is joined with the Federation at state level by a central government, which is often criticised for failing to produce any coherent national policy.
Many of those protesting say the political and administrative system has reached its limits and must be changed. They are calling for institutional reform after decades of uncertainty.