Aceh: Post-conflict Complications
Aceh: Post-conflict Complications
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Report / Asia 2 minutes

Aceh: Post-conflict Complications

Peace in Aceh continues to hold but where the Yudhoyono government and many in Jakarta see a closed book with a happy ending, many Acehnese see a temporary respite from a conflict that will inevitably resume.

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Executive Summary

Peace in Aceh continues to hold but where the Yudhoyono government and many in Jakarta see a closed book with a happy ending, many Acehnese see a temporary respite from a conflict that will inevitably resume. The behaviour of many elected Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) officials and ex-combatants is part of the reason for gloom: Acehnese voters seem to have substituted one venal elite for another. Extortion, robbery and illegal logging involving ex-combatants – although they are not the only culprits – are cause for concern, and a reintegration program initially aimed at helping former fighters economically has been marred by confusion of goals, lack of strategy and lack of accountability. But unresolved issues between Aceh and Jakarta are the real time bomb, and the two sides need to establish an appropriate forum for working these out.

The election of GAM members to provincial and district offices in December 2006 has helped create lucrative patronage networks: jobs and contracts have gone to the victors. Even so, unemployment of ex-combatants remains high and may be one factor in the rash of incidents involving illicit efforts to get quick cash. The Aceh Reintegration Board (Badan Reintegrasi Aceh, BRA) has been dysfunctional since its creation. New leadership since April 2007 and a new orientation since August may address some of the management problems; whether the latter will facilitate reconciliation or further polarise communities is not clear. No one, including donors, seems to have a clear idea whether reintegration funding is an entitlement under the 2005 Helsinki peace agreement, a vehicle for community reconciliation, compensation for past sacrifice or a mechanism for economic empowerment of individuals. Allegations over inequitable distribution of benefits have further divided a fractious and decentralised GAM.

A political rift that emerged before the elections between the exiled leadership in Sweden led by Malik Mahmud and a younger generation led by Irwandi Yusuf, now governor, and many of the field commanders, has deepened. In preparation for the 2009 elections, GAM supporters may field at least three separate parties. One that has caused consternation in Jakarta, called simply “GAM Party” with the GAM pro-independence flag as its symbol, in fact represents just Malik’s minority faction.

Internal feuding will subside, however, if problems with Jakarta heat up. Two issues in particular could cause that to happen in the lead-up to elections: intelligence operations to strengthen “anti-separatist” forces, and GAM pressure, applied unstrategically, for full implementation of the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). GAM leaders have valid concerns about provisions of the Law on Governing Aceh (LOGA) passed in mid-2006 that diluted or undermined key principles of that MoU. Some of these can and should be addressed through a mechanism that allows for top-level dialogue and working through issues, especially as they relate to the authority and function of Aceh’s autonomous local government. But GAM leaders also need to realise that trying to open LOGA to amendment by the parliament in Jakarta in a pre-election environment could be playing with fire.

While dialogue takes place, GAM leaders need to concentrate on governing, delivering tangible benefits to Acehnese with the considerable funding at their disposal and keeping their supporters under control, rather than laying all blame for lack of progress at Jakarta’s door. The central government needs to ensure that its intelligence agencies keep their interventionist tendencies in check.

Jakarta/Brussels, 4 October 2007

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