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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
SARAJEVO/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– Violent anti-government protests are spreading throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina with reports that more than 150 people have been injured in the worst unrest since the end of the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.
There are shouts of joy as protesters set fire to government buildings, expressing frustration over years of political stagnation and massive unemployment in this ethnically divided nation.
In the northern town of Tuzla, an industrial hub where the unrest began, masked youths could be seen torching the seat of the local authority.
Elsewhere in the nation’s capital Sarajevo protesters stormed the presidency building and other government offices, setting them ablaze and smashing furniture.
With unemployment at 44 percent and one in five people living below the poverty line, Bosnians are furious at the authorities’ failure to address the country’s economic situation.
Plagued by government corruption, Bosnia remains among the poorest countries in Europe, with average monthly salaries hovering around 550 dollars.
The civil unrest, which enters its fourth day on Saturday, is unprecedented in postwar Bosnia, where Serbs, Croats and Muslims have tolerated political stagnation for years rather than risk a return to conflict.
Now protesters of different ethnic backgrounds unite as they express their anger at politicians who they say have done nothing to prevent the collapse of several state firms after privatisation.
Riot police used rubber bullets and tear gas but failed to halt furious crowds in several areas with witnessing saying many of the injured are police.
Demonstrations have now engulfed more than 20 towns in the troubled Balkan nation of 3.8 million people.
It is unclear when the protests will end, with activists demanding the resignation of local and regional officials, who they blame for two decades of political stalemate that has left the economy in ruins.
Adding to the financial woes are threats by the European Union to halve its financial aid over the nation’s lack of progress with reforms needed to join the bloc.
Bosnia still hopes to join the EU one day, and started high-level accession talks in 2012.
(BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments from especially, but not limited to, (former) Communist countries and autocratic states, impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals).
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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