News 04 Jan 18

Bosnian Serbs to Name Streets after Banned Holiday

Mayors in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska vowed to heed President Milorad Dodik’s call for streets to be named in honour of the January 9 ‘statehood day’ holiday banned by the Constitutional Court.

Mladen Lakic
BIRN
Sarajevo
President Milorad Dodik and guests mark the Day of Republika Srpska in 2016. Photo: RS Presidency.

The mayors of several municipalities in Republika Srpska told BIRN that they intend to follow Milorad Dodik’s call and name streets after January 9, the date on which the Day of Republika Srpska is celebrated - a holiday that was declared unconstitutional by the state Constitutional Court.

Dodik on December 28 asked all mayors of towns and municipalities in the entity to rename streets to mark the occasion.

Despite constant political disagreements between Republika Srpska’s ruling party, Dodik’s Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, and the main opposition parties in the entity, the Serb Democratic Party and the Party of Democratic Progress, politicians from all sides said they supported the idea.

“We will accept this idea and in the coming days, we will start the procedures to name one street after January 9,” Cicko Bjelica, the Serb Democratic Party mayor of the Sokolac municipality in eastern Bosnia, told BIRN.

Banja Luka, the administrative centre of Republika Srpska, already has a small street named after January 9, but the mayor’s office said a more impressive one would be found to rename.

“We will follow this request and find a proper street to be named after this holiday, hopefully very soon,” the mayor’s office told BIRN.

The Day of Republika Srpska has been the subject of bitter dispute in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the past several years.

January 9 is also a Serbian Orthodox religious holiday - the day of St Stephen, who is the patron saint of Republika Srpska - and the state Constitutional Court ruled in 2015 that holding the holiday on January 9 was discriminatory against non-Serbs in the entity.

The annual celebration has also unsettled Bosniaks who see the founding of Republika Srpska on January 9, 1992 as a prelude to the war that broke out soon afterwards.

Meanwhile the mayor of Bijeljina, Mico Micic, has confirmed that the town square will be named after January 9, as has the mayor of Trebinje, Luka Petrovic.

In the Visegrad municipality in eastern Bosnia, there is already a town square named after January 9.

“I believe that we are the first town in Republika Srpska to have a square named after January 9, so we will not change anything, even though we support this idea,” Mladen Djurdjevic, the mayor of Visegrad, told BIRN.

Municipalities in Prijedor, Zvornik, Teslic, Laktasi and Foca also indicated that they will vote for this proposal.

In Srebrenica, Marko Grujic, the Serb mayor of the town whose Bosniak population was massacred in 1995, did not respond to BIRN’s inquiry by the time of publication.

A conference will be held on January 9 in Srebrenica about the protection of the civil rights of post-war returnees and democratisation in Republika Srpska, organised by the Bosniak former mayor of Srebrenica Camil Durakovic and the Mothers of Srebrenica victims’ rights group. However the organisers declined to comment further for this article.

Dodik has announced meanwhile that there will be a lavish celebration of the Day of Republika Srpska in Banja Luka.

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