Afghanistan and the Legacy of Srebrenica Massacre

It is a sad day when a country that has been destroyed with weapons, accepts weapons donations.

IN JULY of 1995 Special Forces of the Serbian army of Republika Srpska (dubbed “Scorpions” for their ferocity and brutality) massacred 8,000 Bosniaks in the Srebrenica region of Eastern Bosnia.
This open attempt at ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims marked the largest loss of life in European history since World War II, and the man who commandeered the Scorpions in their bloodletting, Ratko Mladić, was indicted as a war criminal and is currently in hiding.

Thanks to international intervention, today the Balkan region enjoys relative peace and quiet. Much of this can be credited to the new institutional setup that allows for regional autonomy and decentralization of power. The Serb Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation are tied together by weak central institutions that guarantee regional autonomy, and freedom from strong-handed and exploitative central governments. This setup also allows for significant downsizing of the regional armies, because the rule of law is understood as the best guarantor of security, and not the size of armies and the number of armaments.

The case of Balkans should be instructive to Afghanistan. Both are multi-ethnic societies with long histories of violence and ethnic strife. Both have experienced internecine conflict in recent times. And in both societies ethnic loyalties trump national identity. Lastly, both have had tragic experiences with attempts at ethnic cleansing: Mazar-i Sharif of 1998 parallels Srebrenica of 1995.
In the aftermath of its own civil war, however, Afghanistan has unfortunately chosen to stick with othe same failed centralization of power that has been the long-standing root of instability in the country. The international community has gone along with this, and accepted the Myth of ‘One Afghanistan’.

Now, the legacy of Srebrenica is about to make its way into Afghanistan. On December 15, 2005 the Serb government of Republika Srpska announced that it “would donate to Afghanistan part of its surplus weapons remaining from Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, instead of destroying them.” This gift, which is donated to the new government of Afghanistan at the behest of the United States, reportedly includes “4,500 machine-guns, 400 howitzers and one million 7.62-caliber bullets.” The government of Afghanistan, in accepting this donation, will be inheriting more than just old weapons and leftover ammunition. It shall inherit the legacy of Srebrenica massacres that those same weapons partly made happen.

History has shown that as long as peoples are marginalized and disenfranchised, no amount of weapons can provide security or stability. It is through accepting the realities of ethnic diversity and building institutions that reflect them that societies find peace and through away their weapons. More particularly, the Balkan lesson has shown that long-lasting peace can be achieved through devolution of power and decentralization of the government. In Balkans Afghanistan should see more than just a weapons depot: it should see its own mirror image.

(© December 17, 2005 Hamesha )

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7 Responses to Afghanistan and the Legacy of Srebrenica Massacre

  1. Anonymous says:

    Salam Hamesha Jan,
    Finally you decided to left the sunctions and share with us your thoughts.
    I am not much into politics, but I think it is one of the most shameful things that the Afghan government is doing.

    Hamesha Kamyab Bashi,

    Sar Sawoz Forghoon Ba Dast!

  2. moshtaq says:

    with regards
    salam/ many thanks for visiting Payam -e- Ittehad, about the miniter of suberb and vileges development i have some documents from MP Bashar Dost will be posted soon in the web please do visit again seee you.

  3. Salam dear hamisha,
    I am thankful to u that u visited the weblog sowghat and u put a comment. secondly I found your blog the one which we need at the moment i have abit interest with the politics of Afghanistan i hope i could learn from your blog and your comments at sowghat.
    Mowafaghe bashi

  4. Anonymous says:

    hamisha jan salam,
    thanks for letting me know about the new piece. You are indespensible now. congratulations!
    with love, hatif

  5. Daniel says:

    If you would like to know more about Srebrenica Genocide, visit my blog: http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.com

  6. Anonymous says:

    salam,
    from tehran :)
    sara mohamadi
    az pagard

  7. Pragmatically Idealistic says:

    While I do understand where you come from when you make the analogy: Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia, I beg to differ and state that Afghanistan is no Yugoslavia. Nor is the current set-up in the Balkan Peninsula an ideal to seek after. To understand where the former Yugoslavia is today, a highly fragmented entity the fragmentation of which is supposed to be along ethnic lines, you can not neglect history, nor the external forces involved in shaping the present realities or those of post-worldwarII. I read you advocating for more autonomy to regional/ethnic centers of power in Afghanistan, with minimal central government’s what I would call coordination and you may call control. If you may take a minute and research the structural setup of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia , you will find out that it was based on extreme autonomy to the six constituent republics – especially after the constitutional amendments of 1974.

    The amendments resulted in furthering the demand for autonomous states, or call it secession for the federal republic. In light of cold war realities, the break up of Yugoslavia into several fragmented autonomous states, sparked by the desire to preserve ethnic identities that have actually remained remotely pure and have experienced a severe amount of mixing with other identities – is a pragmatic conclusion, for the new entities are territorially and resourceful equipped to emerge as viable states in the new international order. The so called strong ethnic identities in modern Afghanistan are not territory wise centralized, nor are they resourceful to survive without the label of a single state stamped upon them. I should also remind you that we are not in an era of city states to advocate for Bamiyan or Badakhazian’s or Kandahar or Kabul’s exercise of autonomy regardless of a centralized coordinating system. The advocates of a Federal Afghanistan fail to understand that our recent history, a tale of destruction and brutalities of which the Mazar Massacre of 1998 is only one instance, is an aftermath of the central authority’s failure to exercise order upon the regional centers. To fix it, and to avoid replaying the bloody game of the past three decades, we ought to propose what was lacking, not institutionalize what caused the problem.

    In practical terms, it was the physical and information isolation of the many centers of power in Afghanistan , plus the unjust behavior of certain dogmatic and self-imposed leaders during the past several decades, that made it feasible for certain commentators to suggest that Afghanistan can not, and shall not, press on a single identity based state formation. This now, with the growing possibilities of bridging physical and information gap between the capital and the provinces, and with the introduction of system in which rising to political authority requires one to respect the ideals of the masses , is becoming a myth—not the principle of a united, and strongly bond together Afghanistan. I assume you are exposed to the standards of Edwards Said, and may I take a moment to point out that in Saidist ideology, ethnic, religious, and lingual fragmentation is a political entity’s strength, and shall not be seen as the cause of its miseries – what is ought to be done is to build a system that respects the differences which may exists, and that highlights the common goods we together, as citizens of Afghanistan in this instance, can attain. A system that is not biased towards the majority, but is based upon human ideals – the bottom line of which is, we are all the same.

    — in any case , i shall thank you for bringing the issue up , and should let you know that I am looking forward to more from you.

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