The melancholy post-Dayton years were passing, and with them, Izetbegović’s life. He was finding it harder and harder to perform his duties at the Presidency, feeling jaded and unable to concentrate. Ahead of the September 1998 elections, he thought seriously about not standing. In May that year he wrote a letter addressed to “my friends” and sent it to some thirty people, expressing his wish to retire, but his party colleagues were of the view that the pre-election period was not the best time to do so. So the decision was postponed until the new millennium, until 2 June 2000.
It was on a Friday, on his way back from juma prayers, that Izetbegović made the irrevocable decision to retire. He called an acquaintance, Senad Hadžifejzović, the editor of RTVBiH, and agreed a time for the announcement of this important new: Tuesday 6 June 2000. At 19.30 Izetbegović appeared on TVBiH News and read the following statement:
“Dear citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I should like to tell you of my decision to retire from the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina when my current term of office as chair expires, on 12 October this year.... There are many reasons for this, but the main ones are my age (I shall be 75 in August) and my health. The job of member of the Presidency in these conditions requires physical and mental fitness, which I no longer enjoy. I thank all those who have supported me over the past ten difficult years. I hope that the dream of all Bosnian patriots of a unified, democratic and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina comes true.”
After his statement, the news anchor, Hadžifejzović, put two questions to him. First, what did he regard as his greatest achievement, to which he replied, independence for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“In 1991-1992 there was a real danger that Bosnia and Herzegovina would become a province of ‘Greater Serbia.’ I prevented that from happening, and regarded it as my greatest achievement.”
The second question was the logical outcome of the first: what did Izetbegović regard as his greatest failure.
“The slow process of establishing a unified, democratic and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina in peacetime,” he replied.
When his term of office came to an end, Izetbegović cleared his desk in the Presidency building where he had worked for almost ten years. It was 15 October 2000. “I don’t like partings, but I felt no sadness,” he wrote in his memoirs.
Summing up his life, he wrote: “If I were offered the chance of another life, I would refuse. But if I had to be born again, I would choose the life I have had.” He continued his political activities at the SDA offices, principally writing his memoirs and receiving guests. Almost every world statesman who came to Bosnia and Herzegovina included a visit to Izetbegović in his agenda. Soon, however, disease overpowered his body, and Alija had to go to hospital. As though preparing himself for death, one by one all his current and former friends came to visit, along with a number of world figures such as US President Bill Clinton and Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan, who made a special landing in Sarajevo to visit his friend in hospital.
Alija Izetbegović died on 19 October 2003. That day and the next, it was as though the skies had fallen on Bosnia’s capital city. Long queues of people from Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with numerous delegations from every corner of the world, wanted to pay their last respects.
Alija Izetbegović was buried in the Shahid’s cemetery at Kovači in Sarajevo.
The permanent museum exhibition is located in the towers Kapi-kula Ploča and Širokac. In the Ploča tower, the life of Alija Izetbegović as statesman and politician is displayed on chronologically arranged exhibition boards, accompanied by text and photographs. In the Širokac tower, the exhibition is dedicated to Izetbegović's role as the Supreme Commander in the defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Serbian agression.
Established in the recent times, the Museum „Alija Izetbegović“ offers modern answers to questions from the past, but also sets the foundation for the future. Through its objective scientific approach, it encourages young people, intellectuals and researchers to approach modern history with expertise and knowledge.
The Museum educational programs are designed for elementary and secondary school students. They include professional tours of the permanent museum exhibition, interactive school workshops, pedagogical and educational publications, lectures, special programmes observing important historical dates, etc.