The title of this article is a play on words to a talk given by the late Christopher Hitchens entitled ‘Why Bosnia matters’, on March 4, 1994, during the Bosnian war and over a year before the massacre in Srebrenica, where over 8,000 Muslim men and boys were systematically slaughtered in July 1995 in what would later be judged to have been a genocide.

On December 14, 1995, after three-and-a-half years of war, the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed. It was an agreement that ended the Bosnian war. The agreement preserved Bosnia as a single state made up of two entities: one was the Serbian entity called Republika Srpska and the other was the Bosniak (Muslim)-Croat entity called ‘Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina’.

One of the key components of this peace agreement was that the institutions of Bosnia would all be filled by the three ethnic groups. For example, the presidency is made up of three presidents: one Muslim, one Croat and one Serb. All three represent and are the leaders of their respective ethnic groups. The military and security apparatus are also made up of individuals from all three ethnic groups.

This framework has allowed an admittedly uneasy peace to last within Bosnia. However, this has changed in recent months.

In July, the head of Bosnia’s Office of the High Representative, Valentin Inzko, made it a crime to deny the genocide at Srebrenica and the glorification of it. This was in response to the continued refusal of Bosnian Serbs to accept that genocide took place, as well as their continued adulation of convicted war criminals.  

In response, the Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik announced that Bosnian Serbs would be boycotting Bosnian state institutions, the same institutions that have helped keep the peace since the end of the war, with the ultimate aim of seceding from Bosnia and making Republika Srpska independent.

Boycotting such institutions is in violation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement. Dodik announced that the Bosnian Serbs would be forming their own army in a move that harkens back to the genocide that occurred in 1995, as it was the Bosnian Serb army of the time that committed the atrocity in Srebrenica.

The West has already failed Bosnia once- Mark Manduca

As a result of Dodik’s actions, the Dutch parliament has called on the EU to impose sanctions on the Bosnian Serb leader, no doubt influenced by The Netherlands’ own shameful history regarding Bosnia. Elsewhere, European parliamentarians demanded the same, while the Socialists and Democrats urged greater involvement by the EU in Bosnia.      

The question is why should the West care? Why does Bosnia still matter? No doubt, there is no appetite among people in the West for yet more involvement in the internal matters of other countries. However, the reality is this: the West has already failed Bosnia once. It sat back and watched Sarajevo being shelled and sniped at for three years and did nothing. In the case of Srebrenica, it literally handed over thousands of civilians to be slaughtered.

This must have seemed strange to Bosnian Muslims, as well as all Muslims around the world, who, in 1991, watched on television as a coalition of nations led by the US knocked back Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait. What was the difference? Ah, yes, Kuwait was about oil, Bosnia was only about saving Muslims, so the West didn’t care; until it was too late, of course.

The war in Bosnia and the failure of the West radicalised thousands of young Muslims around the world and allowed Saudi Arabia to pour huge sums of money into the country and spread their extreme Wahhabi version of Islam throughout Bosnia.

We must make sure that the same does not happen to another generation of Muslim youths.

There are also many survivors of the war; it wasn’t that long ago. One war in a lifetime is enough, don’t you think?

The West must make sure another war (and its ensuing crimes against humanity, including genocide) doesn’t happen. Never again must mean never again.

Mark Manduca has a Master’s degree in diplomatic studies from the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies.

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