Aceh: Now for the Hard Part
Aceh: Now for the Hard Part
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Briefing 48 / Asia 2 minutes

Aceh: Now for the Hard Part

Just past the half-year mark of the agreement to end the conflict in Aceh, several long-anticipated problems are surfacing.

I. Overview

Just past the half-year mark of the agreement to end the conflict in Aceh, several long-anticipated problems are surfacing. None by itself is grave enough to derail the 15 August 2005 accord between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM); the peace process remains very much on track. But their convergence means that more than ever, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla will have to exert leadership, and international donors will have to constantly assess the political impact of their assistance to prevent any backsliding.

The problems include differences between Jakarta and Aceh over the concept of self-government; efforts to divide the province; questions over who can run in local elections and when those elections take place; urgent employment needs of returning GAM members; and oversight of funding for reintegration programs.

The most contentious issue is the draft law on governing Aceh that is supposed to incorporate the provisions of the 15 August memorandum of understanding (MoU) and replace a 2001 law that gave Aceh “special autonomy” within the Indonesian republic. The ministry of home affairs watered down a draft produced in Aceh through a wide public consultation and submitted the diluted version to the Indonesian parliament. Concern over the weakened bill is not confined to GAM but is shared among all in Aceh – and there are thousands – who took part in the original drafting or in subsequent discussions. Intensive efforts are underway to restore key provisions of the Aceh draft, and there is still a chance a reasonable compromise could emerge.

The campaign to carve two new provinces out of Aceh remains an irritant but appears to have no support from the Yudhoyono goverment.

Another issue, repeatedly flagged by Crisis Group, is the reintegration of GAM members. Securing adequate livelihoods for the 3,000 combatants mentioned in the August agreement was going to be difficult enough, given the massive needs in Aceh after the tsunami. It has become increasingly clear, however, that there are more GAM members needing and expecting reintegration assistance than was previously thought. How to allocate reintegration payments budgeted for 3,000 among a much larger number is as much an issue for GAM as for the government and international agencies, but the program set up to address this in Aceh may cause as many problems as it solves.

A final issue is the role of the European-led Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) if local elections are delayed, as now seems inevitable. Originally scheduled for 26 April 2006, they are now likely to be postponed until late July or August, given both delays in passing the above law and the logistics of post-tsunami registration. This means they will almost certainly take place after the AMM’s newly-extended term expires. The AMM is now scheduled to leave Aceh on 15 June 2006. Many Acehnese are concerned because the pre-election period is precisely when clashes requiring a neutral arbiter may erupt.

Jakarta/Brussels, 29 March 2006

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