Indonesia: Tackling Radicalism in Poso

Posted in Asia | 22-Jan-08 | Source: International Crisis Group

Jakarta/Brussels, 22 January 2008: One year after police operations in Poso, Central Sulawesi, there is cautious optimism that jihadi violence has come to an end, but justice, accountability and corruption problems need to be resolved.

Indonesia: Tackling Radicalism in Poso,* the latest update briefing from the International Crisis Group, looks at the impact of the January 2007 operations that led to the death, arrest or flight of key extremists and later to several deradicalisation initiatives.

“Despite remaining questions about whether the death toll was needlessly high, the operations have to be seen as a net gain for peace”, says Sidney Jones, Senior Adviser to Crisis Group. “Now the task is to see that the peace is sustained”.

The briefing examines the current status of jihadi groups in Poso, particularly those linked to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Islamic charity KOMPAK. It notes that of the three territorial subdivisions JI once had in Central Sulawesi, two seem to be destroyed, at least temporarily, and a third, in the provincial capital Palu is split. Recruitment no longer seems to be taking place openly in mosques but may have moved to private homes.

Several important fugitives remain at large, including some five Mindanao-trained JI leaders who are thought to have returned to Java and an expert bomb-maker from Poso who is believed to be still in Central Sulawesi.

Police, the ministry of social affairs and the coordinating ministry for people’s welfare are now working on a number of initiatives that they hope will lessen the influence of extremist elements.

One is a vocational training program, initially intended for former prisoners and men seen as potential troublemakers, which is being expanded to include individuals involved in reconciliation initiatives, out of concern that the government seemed to be rewarding those linked to violence. A second is a large, state-of-the-art Islamic boarding school, optimistically called “Unity of the Ummat” (Muslim faithful), precisely because differences over the school’s directorship had created serious rifts. A third involves efforts to get the families of prisoners on side by financing trips to Jakarta to see their relatives.

The issue of most concern to NGOs and community leaders, however, is not that radicalism will return but that large amounts of poorly monitored funding flooding Poso for post-conflict recovery may create new tensions.

“The whiff – or stench – of corruption has long hung over Poso, and it undermines public trust in government more generally”, says John Virgoe, Southeast Asia Project Director. “If corruption can be brought under control and the deradicalisation initiatives take hold, then perhaps the residents of Poso will have reason for hope”.

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) +32 (0) 2 541 1635
Kimberly Abbott (Washington) +1 202 785 1601
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*Read the full Crisis Group briefing on our website:

The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, multinational organisation, with over 100 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.