TUE, 07 NOV 1995 23:04:20 GMT
The Turmoils in Krajina
The emergence of a mysterious Patriotic Front in Banja Luka, which united the radicals and socialists, liberals and communists, has raised many questions. What stands behind this "unification"?
Aim, Beograd, October 31, 1995
"This is a way to show that there are serious forces which are dissatisfied with those who rule". This is how a sympathizer of this movement explains with obvious satisfaction the emergence of the Patriotic Front, a mysterious organization which suddenly appeared in mid September in Banja Luka. According to him, there has finally emerged regional opposition which stands up for the interests of Bosanska Krajina, as opposed to Karadzic who wants to drag the power "eastward", towards Pale.
"What have the people from the Patriotic Front done so far", asks a denizen of Banja Luka, SDS (Serbian Democratic Party) member in a raised voice. "They have only dug trenches on the surrounding hills for the defence of the city. And only after the battle. The city should have been defended in Mrkonjic Grad and Sanski Most, not twenty miles further", says he minimizing the importance of the Front.
Two conflicting opinions, just like the emergence of the Front itself, are the expression of regional conflicts inside the state of the Bosnian Serbs. Although it is clear now that rebel armies, such as Mladic's, can hardly resist the regular Army of Croatia, the problems at the front seem less important. At least while the cease-fire lasts. The most important is that after postponing for years to come to grips with the objective differences in local interests within their unrecognized state, the politicians of the Bosnian Serbs have finally faced reality.
Actually, in the division of power the eastern and western parts of the Republic of Srpska, whose exponent is Radovan Karadzic, were till now "more important" than Bosanska Krajina. It was the well known "Pale syndrome". When it became impossible to keep all the conquered territories, both sides started a conflict - which one will get more, and whose part can be sacrificed. The confict became tangible when it turned out that the denouement will be at the expense of the far more populous Krajina.
"If I were from the Herzegovina karst, I would have fought for it, I wouldn't have given it up", admits Dr Mladen Ivanic, President of the Serbian Intellectual Forum, a recently established association in Krajina, similar in orientation to the Banja Luka Patriotic Front. "However, if something has to be given up, then you give what is worth less", says this well-known economist from the Banja Luka University whom the Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic received before leaving for Ohio to negotiate the destiny of Bosnia. His reasoning is rational: "Except for the industrial zone of Sarajevo, the western parts of the Republic of Srpska are at a much greater advantage in terms of raw materials, labour and industrial potentials. South of Zvornik the land is deserted and scarcely populated".
A new element (after the war danger and the emergence of local interests in the foreront) which favoured the appearance of the Patriotic Front, was the conflict between Belgrade and Pale. Backing the regional interests of Krajina, beacuse of the present political relations, the Front sided with the President of Serbia Milosevic and became the most deadly internal opponent to Karadzic and the ruling SDS. Logically, Karadzic already has problems in his Party because its Committees, if they retained their earlier positions, would face the danger of serious misunderstandings with the local membership. Vojislav Seselj already experienced that.
The Serbian Radical Party (SRS) joined the Front with the socialists (a branch of Milosevic's party) and SK-PJ (League of Communists - Movement for Yugoslavia), a communist organization which is linked to Mira Markovic. "Unfortunately, all this is a big scam of traitorous parties of socialists and communists", grieves the radical leader Seselj who frantically endeavours to secure any support for Karadzic on the eastern bank of the Drina river. Thus Nikola Poplasen, one of the radical leaders, had to abandon a high party functon because he had joined the Front.
But, it is hardly likely that ideological reasons will overpower regional interests even with the radicals. Pantelija Damnjanovic, member of the SRS Patriotic Administration for Banja Luka "absolutely accepts the rapprochement between SPS, the communists and all other parties". "All those who have no other alternative but to be patriots have joined the Front".
All this is manifested in the "Republic of Srpska" itself as a schism between the civilian and military leaderships. Since Krajina inhabitants are in the majority in the army, the military top is close to the demands of the Patriotic Front. The civilian authorities, which are formally superior to the Army, attempt to weaken their greatest opponent with demands to relieve generals of duty. Things are additionally complicated by the existence of numerous militias. It is claimed that there are eight of them now in Banja Luka.
And while SDS members like to comment on how Karadzic and General Mladic "meet from time to time and have coffee together", people from the Front speak of a totally irreconcilable break up and blame the civilian authorities for all the failures, looking for and finding sly "ulterior motives" in every move they make. The attempt to relieve of rank three important generals who come from the territories that have been lost, but who have not directly participated in the operations, is thought to be yet another Karadzic's sly moves.
Otherwise, the Patriotic Front can only appear on Radio Krajina, a medium recently established by the military and the only one which is not controlled by Karadzic. This programme is broadcast from the Command of the First Krajina Corps in Banja Luka.
The main activity of the Patriotic Front - which is headed by a ten-member Coordinating Committee, the composition of which has been unknown to the public for weeks - were two open letters. The first went to Karadzic and the "RS" Assembly. It was a harsh warning to the leadership for its attempt to cover up the dissatisfaction of Krajina after the loss of thirteen towns this summer, by "cosmetic changes".
"Instead of resignations or removals of key culprits for the existing state of affairs, which the people rightfully expected, the resignation of the Government was staged, although it only ruled formally, as well as of generals who did not participate in the direct chain of command, which meant the continuation of manipulation and deception of the people", says the message. The immediate appointment of a prime-minister designate of the Government of National Salvation was also demanded. If nothing is done, "the people will organize themselves with a purpose of protecting their interests and survival", threatened the Patriotic Front.
On account of the topicality of this message, but also because of the debates who was actually behind the Front, this letter made a splash and it is estimated that it seriously undermined Karadzic's positions in Krajina. Thus, several days later, Mladic cooly refused to relieve four generals as demanded by the Assembly.
After that the Front wrote to Slobodan Milosevic. It demanded of the Serbian President to influence the officers to reorganize the Army, to specify the borders to be defended and to publicly state that the "Republic of Srpska" has prospects of uniting with Serbia and FRY. "If you fail to do anything we, the Serbs from the still remaining parts of the Republic of Srpska, can only conclude...that you have deserted us, and even betrayed us". Drago Ilic, President of the Banja Luka socialists refused to sign this letter, but Zivko Radisic, Vice President and an independent member of the leadership signed it. He is also a man with the "greatest specific gravity" in that party. And the Front continues to live. Although it should be recalled that associations of this type are usually not long lived.
And this would also be an answer to the enigmatic question who is behind the Patriotic Front: When peace "threatens" and the settling of accounts begins as to "why did we fight?", different interests emerge from the chaos. And their harmonization is always more complicated than war campaigns. That is the essence of present developments, while the details, spicy stories and mysteriousness are only tactical wisecracks in a process that is inevitable and unavoidable.