As the historic Aceh peace deal, signed two weeks ago in Helsinki, enters the delicate, implementation phase, analysts worry that the wording is vague and that mounting political opposition could yet derail the accord. When the accord was signed on Aug.15, by Indonesiaâ€™s Minister of Justice and Human Rights Hamid Awaludin and the Free Aceh Movement or GAM leader Malik Mahmud, everybody thought, in Aceh, peace is easier signed than done.
The agreement, which followed seven months of consultations, mediated by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, ended a 29-year-war that left 15,000 people dead. Ironically, the push for peace was provided by the Dec. 26 tsunami that, in Aceh, killed over 130,000 and left 400,000 homeless. Under the agreement, GAM dropped a long-held demand for independence and will disarm its 3,000 fighters. In return, Jakarta granted a host of financial and political incentives besides promising to withdraw some 30,000 of its 45,000 troops stationed in the province on the northern tip of Sumatra island.
In a nutshell, the deal has human features and grants former rebels full amnesty and also provides for money and land to facilitate their rehabilitation in society. The agreement allows Aceh to keep 70 per cent of the revenue generated from its oil and gas resources. The daunting task of checking that everything runs smoothly falls on the shoulders of 200 or so international observers of the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM). The AMM will act as prosecutor and judge on any disputed cases concerning amnesty, the changing of the law or the implementation of the deal.
The agreement has already come under attack by some legislators who have doubted its legality and voiced anger at the extent of concessions granted to Aceh. Anhar, an Acehnese legislator from the Star Reform Party, has gone on record warning that the autonomy granted to Aceh could, in time, lead to a second East Timor. In the last few days, a cross-party group, led by the Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), has raised the stakes, and started procedures to summon the government to the House of Representatives to explain the â€˜ins and outsâ€™ of the peace deal. The agreement needs the endorsement of the House to be incorporated into Indonesian law and become legally binding. However, as Jakarta lawmakers are debating, in Aceh some rebels have already left their jungle hideouts and 1,300 soldiers have been shipped back to Java, in what is seen as the first â€˜realâ€™ move towards peace.
Although the security situation is generally good, last Sundayâ€™s killing of Arifin â€” a 32-year-old former rebel turned farmer â€” has worked as a stark reminder that neither GAM nor the army has full control over their troops and that, in Aceh, violence is always around the corner.
â€˜â€™Militia could be a big problem,â€™â€™ said Damien Kingsbury, director of International and Community Development at Deakin University and a GAM adviser throughout the talks. â€œAlso, the deal allows too many TNI and police forces to remain. They are supposed to be â€˜organicâ€™, but the numbers have been artificially inflated,â€™â€™ he explained, disclosing, nonetheless, a certain degree of optimism. â€˜â€™All in all, the final draft of the deal is okay, and peace is holding. Letâ€™s keep our fingers crossed,â€™â€™ he told IPS. â€” IPS