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  Aceh's Best Chance for Peace
ICG report examines key elements of the December accord

Jakarta/Brussels, 27 February 2003: In a report released today, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said that a 9 December 2002 agreement between the Indonesian government and pro-independence rebels in Aceh might be the last chance to end a 26-year-old conflict. "This agreement is Aceh's last best hope," said Sidney Jones, Indonesia Project Director for ICG in Jakarta. "If it succeeds, not everyone wins, but if it fails, everyone loses".

The report, Aceh: A Fragile Peace*, argues that despite a dramatic drop in violence since the agreement was signed, the failure to resolve major issues between the two parties and the low credibility of the provincial government could wreck the prospects for peace.

The leadership of the pro-independence Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka or GAM) has accepted Aceh's autonomy under Indonesian sovereignty, granted under an August 2001 law, as a starting point for talks but not as a political end. The government in Jakarta is adamant that autonomy is the final offer but has given the rebels few incentives to work within the Indonesian political system.

Sidney Jones said: "GAM appears to be systematically moving into the void left by a widely discredited provincial government. As long as that government is seen to embody autonomy, many Acehnese will view independence as preferable. While keeping the cease-fire is crucial, it is equally important to improve governance in Aceh".

To ensure peace, the report urges both Jakarta and GAM to refrain from actions that violate the letter or spirit of the agreement and support the agreed process for investigations into reported violations. It calls on the government to offer GAM more realistic incentives to take part in the political process and to be more active in reducing corruption. Ensuring direct elections of local officials is key, the report argues, as is supporting the legal changes that would allow for local parties.

ICG reviews the history of the negotiations and explains that this accord is different from all previous efforts because it has international monitors and is backed by the highest levels of government and a broad range of donors. If it fails, ICG warns, intensive military operations are all but inevitable, but this is not a conflict that can be solved militarily.

Katy Cronin (London) +
email: [email protected]

Francesca Lawe-Davies (Brussels) +32-(0)2-536.00.65
Kathy Ward (Washington) +1-202-785 1601
*Read the full ICG report on our website: www.crisisweb.org


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