More than 130 people, including 104 police officers, were injured Thursday in a second day of anti-government demonstrations in the Bosnian city of Tuzla, as police fired tear gas at crowds throwing stones, and protests spread across the country.
The protests highlight public resentment over the political bickering that has stifled governance and economic development since the 1992-1995 war in the Balkan country.
Police fired teargas to drive back several thousand people throwing stones, eggs and flares at a local government building in Tuzla, once the industrial heart of Bosnia’s north which has been hit hard by privatisation and then closure of many factories in recent years.
A strong police contingent dispersed the crowd in the evening after protesters started rioting, smashing shop windows and setting garbage bins on fire, a Tuzla police spokesman said.
The town’s emergency service said it admitted 104 police officers as well as 30 civilians. The AP reported that most of the injuries were related to tear gas.
Hundreds of people turned out in solidarity protests in the capital Sarajevo and the towns of Zenica, Bihac and Mostar. In Sarajevo, protesters clashed with police who had blocked traffic in the city centre. Four officers were taken to hospital, officials said.
The privatization that followed the end of communism and the 1992-95 war produced a handful of tycoons, almost wiped out the middle class and sent the working class into poverty.
Initially, many of the demonstrators were workers who lost their jobs when formally state-owned companies collapsed under private ownership. They have now been joined by thousands of other unemployed people, many of them young.
“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 from Sarajevo.
There is also growing discontent about a political system many believe is laced with corruption. Many say that feuding political leaders, brought to power by a power-sharing system created under Bosnia’s 1995 peace deal, offer few solutions for the country's problems.
Authorities in Tuzla ordered schools to cancel classes on Friday, when protests are expected to continue. Demonstrations are also to be held in Sarajevo and other cities.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is made up of two political entities, the Bosniak-Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska (Bosnian Serb Republic).
The prime minister of the Bosniak-Croat Federation, where the protests took place, held an emergency meeting with regional security ministers and prosecutors.
“We put on one side the workers who were left without basic rights, such as pensions and health benefits ... and on the other side all hooligans who used this situation to create chaos,” Prime Minister Nermin Niksic said after the meeting.
“We will not come to the solution by destroying property, damaging vehicles and windows and fighting the police,” Niksic said, adding that police and prosecutors should take steps against those he called the hooligans.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP)
Date created : 2014-02-07