Bosnia marks 20th anniversary of independence | News | DW | 01.03.2012
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Bosnia marks 20th anniversary of independence

Bosnia's Muslim and Croat leaders have commemorated 20 years of independence from Yugoslavia, while a boycott from Bosnian Serbs outlined the country's deep ethnic divisions.

Bosnia and Herzegovina marked its 20th anniversary since independence from the former Yugoslavia at a ceremony in Sarajevo on Thursday, although a large portion of the ethnically-divided country refused to recognize the holiday.

The semi-autonomous Muslim-Croat Federation is the only region in the country to celebrate independence, while the Serb-majority Republika Srpska boycotts the day. Milorad Dodik, president of the Republika Srpska, called it a "completely normal workday," highlighting the ethnic divisions that still run deep in the country.

Bakir Izetbegovic and Zeljko Komsic, the Muslim and Croat members of the country's three-person presidency, laid flowers at a Sarajevo cemetery in commemoration of those who defended the city against a 44-month siege by Bosnian Serb troops. The Bosnian Serb member, Nebojsa Radmanovic, did not attend.

"Today our thoughts are firstly with those whose loved ones gave their lives to defend freedom and the right to a dignified life," said Izetbegovic, whose father Alija Izetbegovic was the first president of an independent Bosnia.

Ejup Ganic, a Muslim who belonged to the presidency at the time of independence, said in the newspaper Dnevni Avaz that the Republika Srpska was responsible for genocide during the bloody 1992-1996 war that followed the successful referendum for independence from Yugoslavia. The great majority of Bosnian Serbs boycotted the vote.

"The national holiday will be celebrated across the entire country when the institutions of the Republika Srpska are held accountable for ethnic cleansing and genocide," he said.

Another ceremony was planned later in the day at a memorial for the 1,500 children who were among the 10,000 people killed in the fighting.

acb/dfm (AFP, dpa)