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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
On 9 December 2002, an agreement on cessation of hostilities in Aceh
was concluded in Geneva, bringing hope that an end to the 26-year-old conflict between Indonesian
government forces and guerrillas of the pro-independence Free Aceh Movement
(Gerakan Aceh Merdeka or GAM) was in sight. Since then there have been many
positive developments, most strikingly, a dramatic drop in the level of violence.
The agreement, however, is not a peace settlement. It is
rather a framework for negotiating a resolution of the conflict, and it remains
extremely fragile. The first two months were supposed to be the
confidence-building phase of the accord, but far from generating confidence,
they may have actually reinforced each side’s wariness of the other’s long-term
On 9 February 2003, the two sides moved into a five-month implementation
phase with major differences unresolved. These include how the Indonesian military will relocate
as GAM places an increasing percentage of its weapons in designated locations.
The leadership of GAM may have accepted the concept of autonomy as a starting
point for discussions but not as a political end, and there remains little
incentive for the guerrilla group to reinvent itself as a political party
working within the Indonesian electoral system.
The Indonesian army is not likely to sit quietly
indefinitely if the reduction of violence leads, as appears to be the case, to
more organising in support of independence, whether or not that organising
constitutes a formal violation of the agreement. The provincial government of
Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD) also constitutes an obstacle to lasting peace
because it has such low credibility and is so widely seen as corrupt. As long
as it is seen to embody "autonomy", as granted to Aceh under an August 2001
law, many Acehnese will continue to see independence as a desirable alternative.
The 9 December 2002 agreement, brokered by the Geneva-based
non-governmental organisation, the Henri Dunant Centre (HDC), was the outcome
of three years of tortuous negotiations and interim efforts to end the violence
that worked briefly and then collapsed.
This agreement is different from all those that preceded it.
It has international monitors in place. Its structure for investigation and
reporting of violations is already far more transparent than those in the
previous accords. It is backed at the highest levels of the Indonesian
government and by a broad range of international donors. It is the best – and
maybe the last – chance that the 4.4 million people of Aceh have for a
negotiated peace. It may also be their best chance to get international backing
for local government reform and substantial post-conflict reconstruction aid.
If the agreement holds, not everyone wins, but if it fails, everyone loses.
The consequences of failure would be grim, and intensified
military operations would be all but inevitable. The outpouring of enthusiasm
that the agreement has generated across Aceh should be reason enough to for all
parties involved to do their utmost to ensure its success.
The most important recommendation to both sides is to see
the current five-month implementation phase of the agreement through to
completion while refraining from actions that violate the letter or spirit of
the agreement. But in the meantime, some of the harder issues need to be
There are more recommendations below to the government than
to GAM. This should not be read as an indication that the government has
greater responsibility but rather as an indication of how important the issue
of local governance has become. In many areas of Aceh, the populace has simply
lost all faith in government. That faith will not be restored by an autonomy
law, and an increase in funds going into provincial and district budgets does
not necessarily translate into an improved standard of living for ordinary
To the government of Indonesia:
1. Offer GAM more realistic incentives to take part in the
political process, including by supporting the necessary legal changes that
would allow for local political parties in Aceh.
2. Support fully the process outlined in the 9 December 2002 agreement for
investigating reported violations.
3. Improve local governance by:
(a) supporting efforts to strengthen the fiscal transparency of
the NAD government;
(b) having an independent board review the allocation of
contracts for publicly-financed projects in Aceh as well as the relationship between
expenditure authorised and quality of work;
(c) ensuring that allegations of corruption by provincial and
district officials are promptly investigated, and where appropriate,
prosecuted, by individuals who themselves have no political or economic ties to
those being investigated; and
(d) supporting the assessment by a credible international
accounting firm of accounting practices by provincial and district governments
and how these could be improved.
4. Support a carefully designed public opinion survey in sample
villages across Aceh of how Acehnese believe their lives could be improved and
what their priorities are for themselves and their children, and use the
results to design public policies that respond to local aspirations.
5. Develop a plan to restore credibility in the justice system
in Aceh, including by:
(a) ensuring that the establishment of new religious courts does
not further weaken the legal system by creating confusion about overlapping
(b) giving high priority to the administration of justice within
the peace zones; and
(c) understanding why local or traditional methods of justice
are seen as more effective than anything on offer from the state.
6. End illegal levies along roads by:
(a) having the national army and police headquarters in Jakarta
make this a priority, with spot inspections using the kind of commercial
vehicles that are normally the target of demands for money; and
(b) enforce strict discipline from headquarters on police and
soldiers who extort money.
7. Encourage the local parliament in Aceh to give high priority
to the draft regulation (qanun) on direct election of local officials,
including district heads and mayors.
8. Channel all central government aid and humanitarian
assistance not through the provincial government but through a special body
committed to complete transparency and public accountability.
9. Have a senior government official from Jakarta chair a
discussion among law faculty, nongovernmental organisations, the local press,
military and police on freedom of expression and assembly, so that mutually
acceptable definitions are worked out for how those freedoms can be exercised
in Aceh, or at least that different interpretations and their consequences are
understood by all parties.
10. Refrain from pro-independence rallies and other activities
that suggest to the government that GAM is using the cessation of hostilities
to consolidate political and military support.
11. Give serious attention to how the January 2001 discussions,
at the time of the "Provisional Understanding" on the democratic process, could
be translated into a concrete program for transforming GAM into a political
party in a way that would not involve a referendum but also would not indelibly
alter GAM's identity.
12. End extortion of the local populace by GAM members.
13. Support fully the process outlined in the 9 December 2002 agreement for
investigating reported violations.
To International Donors:
14. Fund immediate reinforcement of the HDC media and public
relations unit to enable a much more direct, widespread, and unbiased
dissemination of the contents of the agreement, in the Acehnese language and in
a manner likely to draw a wide audience.
15. Produce immediate peace dividends in communities affected by
conflict through high-visibility projects that help shore up the agreement.
16. Support local efforts to promote fiscal transparency by:
(a) helping journalists find information on the Rp.700 billion
(approximately U.S.$79 million) allocated for education by the provincial
(b) reinforcing pressure on Jakarta and the local government
to ensure independent and credible auditing of the latter's expenditures.
17. Look for ways to absorb GAM fighters into the labour force
without creating wage distortions.
18. Prepare plans to help with the direct elections of local
officials, if and when the provincial regulation on direct elections is adopted.
19. Avoid, as almost all donors already are, channelling assistance through
the provincial government.
20. Monitor project implementation by creating a small multi-donor office
in Aceh that can also easily provide information on donor assistance to Acehnese organisations.
21. Consider reviewing project implementation on a regular
basis, not just to evaluate the success of individual projects but to see how
well the donor effort is strengthening the peace, and make adjustments accordingly.
Jakarta/Brussels, 27 February 2003