Aceh: Post-conflict Complications

Posted in Asia | 05-Oct-07 | Source: International Crisis Group

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Jakarta/Brussels, 4 October 2007: Poor governance, criminal activities of ex-rebels and a dysfunctional reintegration program are causing concern in post-conflict Aceh, but the long-term threat to peace is the unresolved issue of Aceh’s authority vis-à-vis the central government.

Aceh: Post-conflict Complications,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines political developments since the victory of Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) candidates in the December 2006 local government elections. While political power has formed a new GAM elite, it has also created new divisions between well-funded commanders and many rank-and-file who feel they have not received their fair share. Extortion, robbery and illegal logging involving ex-combatants are serious problems, and a reintegration program – recently restructured and perhaps on the mend – has been marred by confusion of objectives and lack of accountability.

“The euphoria that swept Aceh in December is gone”, says John Virgoe, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Project Director. “It has been replaced by a sense that the new elite is not that different from the old, and as many divisions are being created as healed in Acehnese society.”

Internal rifts in GAM will subside if problems with Jakarta heat up. Two issues could cause that to happen in the lead-up to 2009 parliamentary elections: intelligence operations to strengthen “anti-separatist” groups and failure to make progress toward bridging differences between Jakarta and Aceh over implementation of the 2005 Helsinki peace agreement.

Some of those differences can and should be addressed through a mechanism that allows for top-level dialogue, especially over issues that relate to the authority and function of the Aceh government. The 2006 Law on Government Aceh did not lay those issues to rest, and new tensions can emerge as implementing regulations are drafted.

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

“The Yudhoyono government sees Aceh as a closed book with a happy ending”, says Sidney Jones, the Asia Program’s Senior Adviser. “It’s true that the conflict is over, but the peace needs more work.”

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) 32 (0) 2 541 1635
Giulia Previti (Washington) 1 202 785 1601

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*Read the full Crisis Group report on our website:

The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation covering some 60 crisis-affected countries and territories across four continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.