Belgrade: Serbia’s President Tomislav Nikolic said Monday that the election of a Bosnian Serb mayor in Srebrenica, where 8,000 Muslims were massacred by Serbs, would not mean Belgrade would forget the wartime “crime”.
Mladen Grujicic is poised to become the first Serb mayor since 1999 in the eastern Bosnian town, based on the preliminary count from Sunday’s local elections.
Srebrenica witnessed Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II when thousands of Muslim men and boys were killed at the hands of Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995.
Two decades later, Muslims and Serbs live side by side but by no means together in the town — and many Muslims feel uneasy over the prospect of a Serb mayor.
Nikolic however assured that the election result “should not change anything”, particularly not “the interpretation of what happened at Srebrenica”.
“A crime occurred at Srebrenica and the fact that a Serb will lead the municipality does not mean that we in Serbia will forget what happened during the war,” the president said, according to private television channel N1.
Although he lags behind in initial counts, the Muslim candidate, incumbent mayor Camil Durakovic, said he would not concede defeat until postal votes were counted.
Grujicic, 34, has also sought to allay the fears of the Muslim community, stressing that the town hall would continue to help commemorate the events of 1995.
Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war pitted Bosnia’s ethnic Serbs, Croats and Muslims against each other, claiming 100,000 lives and displacing two million people.
The conflict ended with the Dayton peace accords, which split the country into two semi-independent entities — the Serb-run Republika Srpska and a Muslim-Croat federation.
The entities are linked by weak central institutions in Sarajevo.