Just past the half-year mark of the agreement to end the conflict in Aceh, several long-anticipated problems are surfacing.
On 11 December 2006 local elections will take place in Aceh, the once war-torn region of Indonesia where ex-guerrillas are now running for office.
Aceh is the only part of Indonesia that has the legal right to apply Islamic law (Shari’a) in full. Since 1999, it has begun slowly to put in place an institutional framework for Shari’a enforcement.
On 15 August the Indonesian Government and the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) are to sign a peace agreement that offers the best hope yet of ending a conflict that has cost over 9,000 lives since 1976.
When local elections were held in Aceh on 11 December 2006, conventional wisdom (shared by Crisis Group) was that candidates from the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) would not do well.
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.
Tensions in Aceh are high as elections approach, although they have receded somewhat from a peak in mid-February.
As revelations about a jihadi coalition calling itself “Al Qaeda Indonesia in Aceh” continue to emerge, the Indonesian government should take steps to tighten control over prisons, provide more training for police in confronting armed suspects and consider banning paramilitary training by non-state actors.
Three years after the 15 August 2005 signing of the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM), Aceh is politically vibrant but on edge.
Five years after the first post-conflict elections in Aceh brought former guerrillas of the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) to power, local elections scheduled for November 2011 are turning into a bitter intra-GAM battle.
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