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date: 26 June 2022

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Unifying Armed Forces in a Divided Statelocked

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Unifying Armed Forces in a Divided Statelocked

  • Danijela DudleyDanijela DudleyDepartment of Political Science, San Jose State University

Summary

Bosnia and Herzegovina emerged as an independent state in 1995 after a bloody civil war that accompanied the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The new state faced the task of democratizing its political system and constructing its civil–military relations in the context of postconflict reconstruction and reconciliation, while working within the challenging parameters established by the Dayton Peace Agreement. In order to maintain a unified state of Bosnia and Herzegovina but at the same time create conditions in which Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs could coexist, the international community, which directed the terms of the Dayton Peace Agreement, divided the state internally into two entities and allocated public offices equally among the three ethnic groups, creating thus a convoluted power-sharing structure which continues to dominate the country’s political developments. In addition, the terms of the peace agreement established an extensive presence of the international community to oversee and to a large extent dictate the country’s postwar reforms and implementation of various aspects of the peace agreement. As a result of the context in which it reached statehood, the terms of the peace agreement, and regional circumstances, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s civil–military relations since independence have been shaped by three factors: sustained ethnic divisions among the three constituent peoples; continued, and sometimes forceful, presence of the international community; and the country’s desire for international integration, particularly potential membership in the European Union and NATO.

For almost a decade after the war, Bosnia and Herzegovina lacked state-level defense institutions. In fact, the Dayton Peace Agreement allowed the three ethnic groups to maintain their wartime armed forces, leading to the maintenance of three separate militaries, each commanded and controlled by the corresponding ethnic group. Only after a decade of separate existence were the armed forces united and central institutions for their control established. This unification, however, would not have been possible without the international community’s actions and incentives. The continued presence of the Office of the High Representative, coupled with the country’s desire to satisfy the conditions of membership in the European Union and NATO, have led to the establishment of formal institutional structures for democratic civil–military relations and the unification of its ethnic-based armed forces into one military force. At the same time, while the armed forces have been unified and formal institutional structures for civilian control over the armed forces established, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s civil–military relations have yet to be classified as democratic because the formal powers of the civilian leadership have yet to be fully realized.

Subjects

  • Governance/Political Change
  • Political Institutions

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