Anti-government protests show signs of spreading in Bosnia

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 06, 2014 12:08 PM

By Daria Sito-Sucic

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Dozens of people were injured on Thursday in a second day of anti-government protests in the Bosnian town of Tuzla, backed by smaller demonstrations in other towns over unemployment and political inertia.

The protests reflect resentment over the ethnic politicking that has stifled governance and economic development since a 1992-95 war.

Police fired teargas to drive back several thousand people lobbing stones, eggs and flares at the local government building in the town, once the industrial heart of Bosnia's north but hit hard by factory closures in recent years.

Forty-five people, 30 of them police officers, were treated in hospital for minor injuries, hospital officials said.

Hundreds of people turned out in solidarity in the capital Sarajevo, the central town of Zenica and Bihac in the west. In Sarajevo, teenagers threw eggs and stones at a government building and fought with police. Four officers were taken to hospital, officials said.

Some of the Sarajevo protesters were heard chanting "Killers!" and "Revolution!"

"It was our government that sold state assets for peanuts and left the people without pensions, jobs or health insurance," said 24-year-old Hana Obradovic, an unemployed graduate.

"Their families have nothing to eat while (the politicians) sit in the institutions and steal from the people," she said.

The Tuzla protesters are made up mainly of workers laid off when state-owned companies were sold off but collapsed under private ownership.

At 27.5 percent, Bosnia's unemployment rate is the highest in the Balkans.

Bickering political leaders, brought to power by a dysfunctional power-sharing system created under Bosnia's 1995 peace deal, are seen as offering few solutions. Much of the political class is perceived as deeply corrupt.

Of 27 people arrested on Wednesday, 24 were released. Protesters demanded the release of the others.

Adis Arapovic, an analyst of the Centre for Civil Initiatives, told the Bosnian daily Dnevni Avaz: "The revolt in Tuzla is the culmination of years-long social discontent, injustice and the irresponsibility and idleness of the institutions."

(Additional reporting by Miran Jelenek; Editing by Matt Robinson/Ruth Pitchford)