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An upsurge in nationalist tensions is observed for several weeks in Republika Srpska, as part of campaign for referendum on the upholding of Republika Srpska (RS) “national day”, scheduled on September 25th.
Celebrated every January 9th to commemorate the Republika Srpska creation in 1992, this festival had been judged unconstitutional by the Bosnian Constitutional Court in November 2015 – as considered discriminatory regarding non-Serbs populations –, causing strong reactions from the Banja Luka (RS) authorities, and especially from Mirolad Dodik, the President of this autonomous republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The latter thus unilaterally summoned a referendum on September 25th, one week before the local elections (October 2nd). However, Bosniaks Members of the Legislative Assembly of Republika Srpska, as Sarajevo’s authorities, consider this vote as a reconsideration of the Dayton Peace Agreement (1992) and expressed their concern over the first step towards a self-determination referendum it could constitute. Several Bosniaks deputies thus officially wrote to Bosnian Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic, to ban the referendum whereas President of Republika Srpska went to Belgrade (Serbia) today (September 1st), to meet President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, the latter benefiting from significant influence within Serbian community.
This upsurge in tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina falls within a larger context of nationalisms revival in the Western Balkans, where identity issues, and especially denominational, remain significant, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Indeed, “anti-terrorist” exercises were conjointly conducted on August 27th and 28th on the Serbian border (East), between police forces of the Republic of Serbia and Republika Srpska, without any representative of Sarajevo’s power. In parallel, the so-called “green-berets” Bosniak paramilitary group, for its own part, organized a veteran’s parade, while officially requesting a military equipment, weapons and ammunitions loan from Bosnian army. Furthermore, a revival of tensions between Serbia and Croatia has been observed in August, notably following a controversial statement of the Croatian Interior Minister criticizing the upholding of Serbian language and Cyrillic alphabet in Vukovar (Croatia, East). Moreover, the creation of a Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia on Bosnian territory – abandoned project since 1994 – has been put back on agenda by Bozo Ljubic, President of Central Council of the Croatian Assembly of Bosnia-Herzegovina. These developments, likely to weaken the regional security environment, raise the concern of the European Union, which made the intercommunity reconciliation a priority in the region.
Therefore, in case of local presence and regarding the security context not only in Republika Srpska but also in the main agglomerations of the country as Sarajevo and Mostar, it is recommended to adopt an increased level of vigilance. Furthermore, considering the political context, broach the issue in the presence of locals should be avoided, the latter being particularly sensitive.
Amhara anti-governmental protests reported over the last weeks have conducted to the degradation of several horticultural farms owned by foreign companies.
Indeed, according to local sources, at least 9 out of the 12 horticulture exploitations based in Bahir Dar (Amhara Region, North-West) were ransacked and/or burnt down in the margins of antigovernment protests started in the beginning of August 2016. Thus, a Dutch businessman who owns 13 kilometers square of land for exploitation complained after a “large group” of people invaded his farm on August 29th, causing about 7 million euros ($7.8 million) of damages. Also, local Medias have reported that 2 flower farms in Meshenti town (South of Bahir Dar) were set on fire by Ethiopian protesters during the last week of August. Like so, some of the 9 vandalised lands belonged to foreign companies – Dutch, Israeli, Italy, Indian and Belgian.
Those incidents illustrate the aggravation of the local situation due to the social and political contestation movements observed in Amhara region – and other part of the country – while government have set up incentive measures over the last years to develop horticultural industry. In this way, the State who is the only owner of lands in Ethiopian conceded 170.000 kilometers of lands to local and foreign investors, contributing by this way to lead Ethiopia at the second rank in flower export in Africa after Kenya.
Indeed, the favorable climatic conditions for those cultures in addition of the implication of the government to ease local and foreign investments have led to a quick increase of the sector. Low production costs, the proximity of lands with the International Airport of Bahir Dar (North-West) where government has installed a freeze chamber to facilitate the conservation as well as the export of goods were also factors willing to foster investments in this sector. Eventually, the horticulture industry has conduct to the creation of more than 100.000 jobs over the country in the last 5 years, including 3.000 in Bahir Dar town; in consequence, the industry plays a major part in the social conditions of local populations.
However, the horticultural industry progress didn’t evacuate the differences observed in terms of development among main ethnic groups despite the economic growth of the country. As such, Amhara and Oromia communities not only denounced the political domination of Tigray and their own marginalization but also the enrichment of the ruling community in recent years at the expense of the rest of the population. In this context, incidents reported in Amhara, mainly at Bahir Dar and Gondar, and in Oromia regions are likely to continue in the coming months despite the systematic deployment of security forces and could represent an increasing risk for economic investors who previously benefited from the relative national stability.
In this context, and in case of activity in the Amhara region, it is advisable to keep oneself informed of the evolution of the social and political situation due to the risk of clashes. Moreover, in case of investment projects in Ethiopia, it is recommended to take into account of the specific national context during a careful preliminary investigation in order to limit the risk of future losses or disorders.