Over 200 veterans of the Bosnian war protested in front of the government building of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, demanding better pensions.The protesters – all former members of the Bosnian Army and the Croatian Defence Council – carried signs reading “How long will army pensioners be humiliated?“, “Politicians – Fighters made sure you have offices today“ and “Believe it or not, this is an army pension – 67. 45 KM [35 Euro]”.
The army pensioners are outraged by the decision of the Federal government to reduce the amount of pensions by 15 percent for some 24,000 pensioners.
Ismet Harbinja, the president of the association of army pensioners and military beneficiaries in the Bosnian federation, says that the government has reduced the pensions “illegally”.
“The Federal government said they must reduce the amount of pensions in order to implement the requests made by the International Monetary Fund, IMF. However, this is a lie, since the IMF requested that the overall expenditure be reduced. They said nothing about the army pensions in particular,” said Harbinja.
He added that he had received information that in the next few years the army pensions will be even more drastically reduced, or even completely abolished, which would have “catastrophic consequences”.
“The government will create, instead of the former fighters’ population, a new beggar population in its place. However, we will not let that happen. We will fight united. The time is almost upon us, when we will have mass protests, unless something changes,” said Harbinja.
Former members of the Croatian Defence Council, HVO, who during some periods of the Bosnian war fought against their Bosniak counterparts, also took part in the protest.
However, Drago Dragicevic, president of the former HVO Generals’ association, says that this is one fight where Bosniak and Bosnian Croat former fighters should stand united.
“This travesty of a government we have, has kept on humiliating us, all of us. Every year we have various revisions of the pension system, but we never have revisions of wartime profiteers, ” said Dragicevic.
The protesters have written a letter to the Prime Minister of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nermin Niksic, asking him to annul the decision to reduce the army pensions and to hold a meeting with the war veterans in order to discuss their problems.