ABSTRACT

The Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on 15 August 2005 between the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) put an end to half a century of civil struggle for regional autonomy and 30 years of national-separatist armed conflict. In 1953, Acehnese Daud Bereueh, a former leader in the struggle against the reoccupation of Indonesia by the Dutch former colonial power from 1945 to 1949, launched a revolt against the central government. His followers were disappointed with the post-colonial institution-building process driven by a heavily centralistic understanding of the nation state that had led to the merging of the province of Aceh with the province of North Sumatra. Even though Bereueh’s movement did not call for secession from Indonesia, the central government sent thousands of troops and killed many of those involved. The fact that Aceh was established as a ‘special territory’ (Daerah Istimewa) in 1959 with greater autonomous power in religious, educational and cultural matters could not assuage collective bitterness among the local population. On the contrary, the popular resentment grew even stronger when the promised benefits of the autonomy deal remained largely unrealised and the status of Daerah Istimewa became virtually meaningless. When General Suharto took over the presidency in 1966 and installed his so-called New-Order regime, the relationship between Jakarta and Aceh deteriorated further. Suharto’s nation-building project was even more centralistic and militaristic than the previous one, and came in for heavy criticism for its massive exploitation of natural resources. This situation prepared the ground for the birth of the Free Aceh Movement. GAM emerged in 1976 when Teugku (Lord) Mohammad Hasan di Tiro, a supporter of Bereueh, returned to Aceh from exile in the United States, and started spreading awareness among Acehnese youth and intellectuals about Acehnese identity and the unjust position of the province within the new Republic of Indonesia. On 4 December 1976,

together with a limited number of close followers, he declared Aceh to be an independent state. The self-declared parallel government was inaugurated covering all political departments of a national government, and di Tiro was declared Head of State of Aceh-Sumatra, as well as head of military command. In the following years, his movement was progressively drawn into the armed struggle as a strategy of self-defence against the central government’s militaristic approach, and in an attempt to develop and complete the structure of an independent state. The history of the armed conflict in Aceh can generally be broken down into four phases. The period from 1976 to 1989 saw the formation of GAM’s military wing Angkatan Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (AGAM) and the development of a low-intensity armed conflict. In the second phase from 1989 to 1998, in response to GAM’s increased military efforts, the Indonesian army undertook a counter-insurgency operation, known as the ‘Military Operations Area’. During this period, there were vast numbers of extra-judicial killings, disappearances, rapes, torture and other human rights violations – leading to the death of between 10,000 and 26,000 persons (according to various estimates). As a result of the regime’s continuous impunity and repression, its victims began looking at different ways of gaining justice, i.e. by joining the armed rebellion. The third phase followed the fall of Suharto in May 1998, leading to a first period of direct communication between the new Indonesian democratic government and the GAM movement. A round of negotiations in 2000-2003 led to the signature of a ‘Cessation of Hostilities Agreement’, the results of which were short-lived, as the parties returned to war in 2003. The fourth and final phase (2004-2005) was initiated by the humanitarian catastrophe of the tsunami which triggered the resumption of negotiations, leading to the signing of the Helsinki MoU in August 2005. Within this framework, farreaching self-government competencies were negotiated for Aceh, including the right to form provincial parties, and legislation for its implementation was formally codified in the Law on the Governing of Aceh (LoGA), enacted by the Indonesian parliament on 11 July 2006. For its part, GAM dismantled its military wing, transformed itself into a civilian body, the Aceh Transition Committee (Komite Peralihan Aceh, KPA), and formed a political party which is currently running the local and provincial administration in Aceh. The following two chapters analyse the challenges faced throughout the elaboration and implementation of a comprehensive peace agreement in Aceh. Chapter 11 was written by Agus Wandi, an Acehnese researcher affiliated with the Aceh Institute, in consultancy with former GAM negotiator Nashiruddin and members of the KPA. It analyses the inter-relations between the various components of peace implementation, including arms management, demobilisation, socio-economic facilitation, political participation and structural reform. For its part, Chapter 12 was written by Shadia Marhaban, a former member of the GAM negotiation support

team and founder of Acheh Women’s League (Liga Inong Acheh, LINA). She critically assesses the economic reintegration process based on her own experience in peacebuilding support, and highlights patterns of marginalisation with regards to one particular conflict stakeholder: female combatants. Both chapters also address the role of the international community and provide lessons learned from the Acehnese case.