How Indonesia’s Top Leadership Neutralized Opponents of Peace

To make a peace agreement with GAM possible, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla needed to confront and manage powerful constituencies in Jakarta, some of which—particularly parts of the military—were not in favor of a peace deal. Yudhoyono's and Kalla's very different styles, networks, and political bases enabled them to mobilize resources and manage threats that had confounded their predecessors.

Yudhoyono provided the “political umbrella” for negotiations and protection from the hardline military commanders who had undermined previous ceasefire agreements, including the 2002 deal that later broke down. Yudhoyono's military background, personal networks and experience with previous military reform efforts helped him to identify and contain potential spoilers in the military.

One of his key decisions was to retract former president Megawati's nomination of General Ryamizard Ryacudu as the military's commander-in-chief and instead order the extension of incumbent General Endriartono Sutarto's tenure. Ryacudu had been a frequent and outspoken critic of negotiations with GAM, and demonstrated little hesitation in publicly challenging the government's conciliation policies.

Kalla made sure that the national political parties in parliament—several of them very critical of the negotiations—were brought on board. He oversaw day-to-day negotiations and was deeply immersed in the details of discussions. In late June and early July 2005, Kalla convened a series of meetings to search for creative ways to resolve differences. Following the peace agreement, he continued to take the lead in negotiations with parliamentary factions in relation to the recently approved Basic Law for the Governance of Aceh.