Peace in Aceh Depends on Successful Reintegration of Fighters and Economic Development

As Aceh celebrates the 1-year anniversary of its 15 August 2005 peace agreement, many observers believe that it is the re-integration of former fighters, along with economic development of the villages to which they return home, that will ultimately determine whether peace is going to hold.

The Jakarta government has promised tens of millions of dollars for job creation, economic development, and rehabilitation for ex-combatants and war-ravaged areas of Aceh. But the Aceh Reintegration Agency was inundated with nearly 50,000 proposals from Acehnese citizens.

The release of cash was brought to a virtual halt while the agency figured out how to accommodate the heavy demand. For now, the agency is only dealing with community-level projects to help improve village economies and life in general, ranging from irrigation ditches to farm equipment to new schools. Meanwhile, the International Organization for Migration distributed seed money to 230 villages for 'quick impact' community projects.

The Freh Aceh Movement (GAM) continues to complain that large-scale programs are too slow in coming. Some warn that a new generation of GAM fighters could rise up if they felt they were not getting a fair share of the peace dividend. Most of them are still jobless and living in poverty.

The Indonesian Survey Circle, a leading pollster, said that its latest survey in Aceh showed public skepticism in the peace process might increase if economic difficulties remain unresolved after the December elections.

Joe Cochrane, “Re-Integration Is Key to Peace in Indonesia’s Aceh,” Monsters and, 14 August 2006.
“Indonesia's Aceh to Vote in December – Jakarta,” Reuters India, 10 August 2006.