The formation of Bosnia’s armed forces (AFBiH), assisted by NATO and EUFOR, has been hailed as the country’s biggest achievement since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, uniting former wartime foes and promoting national stability.
Under the 1995 Dayton peace accords, Bosnia was split into two autonomous regions, the Serb-dominated Serb Republic and a federation shared by Muslim Bosniaks and Croats.
Each region has its own government and parliament.
The AFBiH, formed in 2005, brings together Bosniaks, Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat former military components under a state law on defense agreed by all political parties and approved by the national parliament.
However, nationalist Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik said at a ceremony on Sunday marking the Day of the Serb Republic army (VRS) that the Serb component of Bosnia’s military would wear its own uniform at next year’s ceremony, not that of the united army.
Dodik, who has often criticised Bosnia’s state-level multi-ethnic institutions even while serving as chairman of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency since October, said the Third Infantry Regiment was part of the Serb Republic army and expected to “defend its achievements” if need be.
His comments sparked an angry reaction from Bosniak leaders, who said the VRS had been mentioned in many verdicts by the Hague-based international war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia as a force responsible for killing Bosniaks during the wars of the 1990s.
EUFOR, which in 2004 took over from NATO the task of keeping the peace in Bosnia, said: “Any statements which serve to undermine the AFBiH and their legal status as the single, united, military force of the state of Bosnia are counter-productive and should be avoided.
“EUFOR rejects any statements or activities that could divide this organisation and jeopardise the success that AFBiH has achieved in terms of providing a single, state-level, and internationally respected military force.
“The respected military force represents all people of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” it said in a statement.
The U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo and the mission of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) also criticised Dodik’s statement, saying it was irresponsible and dangerous.
Bosniak leaders have accused Dodik of arming and beefing up the Serb region’s police, violating the balance of arms between the country’s two regions as agreed under the Dayton peace deal.
Von der Leyen told the UN Security Council in New York that women are no better peacekeepers than men, however they are different and this diversity is strength.
“In empowering women in all walks of life, visibility is key.
“We need role models to stir the imagination, successful female mentors who tell their stories to younger women and share their experience.
“Germany will pledge substantial financial support to get a global network of female peacekeepers up and running,’’ von der Leyen said.
According to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, evidence shows that female peacekeepers increase the effectiveness of operations; for example, women at checkpoints are credited with promoting a less confrontational atmosphere.
“The presence of women is linked to higher reporting of sexual and gender-based violence and lower incidences of sexual exploitation and abuse,’’ Guterres said.
In spite of UN efforts, the number of women in uniform has only increased by around 1 per cent since 2015.
“There have been some notable gains, with the number of female staff officers and military observers almost doubling to 13 per cent since late 2017.
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