Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Briefing 44 / Asia 2 minutes

Aceh: So Far, So Good

The Aceh peace process is working beyond all expectations. Guerrillas of the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) have turned in the required number of weapons.

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I. Overview

The Aceh peace process is working beyond all expectations. Guerrillas of the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) have turned in the required number of weapons. The Indonesian military (Tentara Nasional Indonesia, TNI) has withdrawn troops on schedule. The threat of militia violence has not materialised. Amnestied prisoners have returned home without incident. The international Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM), led by the European Union's Peter Feith, has quickly and professionally resolved the few violent incidents between GAM and the TNI. A new law on local government in Aceh, incorporating provisions of the 15 August 2005 peace agreement signed in Helsinki, has been drafted in consultation with broad sectors of the Acehnese public and GAM, and submitted to the Indonesian parliament. While there are still challenges, the peace process has active support from the highest levels of the Indonesian government, and Acehnese who were sceptical at the outset that it could hold are slowly beginning to change their minds.

The peace process now has entered a critical stage on two fronts. The first of these involves the reintegration of former GAM members into civilian life. While many combatants have returned spontaneously to their communities, most are unemployed. Disagreement between GAM leaders and the government over whether cash payments to facilitate reintegration should be made directly to individual combatants or channelled through GAM commanders is holding up more comprehensive programs to establish new livelihoods. It also appears to be creating some friction within GAM itself. If the problem is not resolved, the danger in the long term is that bored or jobless ex-combatants will turn to crime or seek to resume fighting.

The second front is the legal process of incorporating the provisions of the 15 August agreement into a new law that must be adopted by the Indonesian parliament. The transformation of GAM from an armed movement to a political one hinges on this law, particularly its provisions on local political parties and the mechanics of local elections. The question is whether the parliament will accept the Acehnese draft without serious revisions or dilutions. While the prospects look brighter now than they did several months ago, a new issue has arisen that is causing anxiety in Aceh: whether there will be any reference in the final version to the possibility that Aceh in the future can be divided into more than one province. Such a reference could undermine the consensus in Aceh around the current draft and ultimately, the peace itself. Since wiser heads have prevailed thus far every time a potential obstacle has arisen, there is every reason to believe that a way will be found around this problem, too.

This briefing records the key achievements a year after the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated Aceh and reordered the political landscape. It also highlights some of the remaining possible bumps in the road to a lasting peace.

Jakarta/Brussels, 13 December 2005

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