Rebuilding has been marred by land and
property disputes, corruption, and turf wars among foreign
aid agencies that have promised more than they can deliver.
The government and aid groups have proclaimed 2006 to be the
year when rebuilding will hit its stride. Making good on
this promise is imperative to prevent growing resentment.
In contrast, the first phase of the peace process was an
outstanding success. In accordance with the MOU, GAM
fighters turned in their weapons, and the government sharply
reduced its security forces in Acheh. It is the next phase,
focused on political and human rights issues, that
represents treacherous territory.
A new Acheh governing law is to incorporate key
provisions of the MOU and lead the province to greater
self-government. But the legislation submitted by the
Indonesian government to parliament for final approval is
much weaker than the initial draft that was drawn up in
Acheh with popular consultation. Parliamentary deliberations
have been slow - marked by a tug of war between those
wanting to strengthen several provisions and those
displeased with what they regard as unwarranted concessions
to Achenese separatism.
Recognizing the need to give GAM and Acheh's civil
society a stake in the political process, the draft law
endorses the establishment of local political parties.
(Indonesian law ordinarily requires that parties have
offices in at least half the country's provinces.) However,
new parties may not be up and running in time to contest
gubernatorial elections, which were scheduled for April but
will now be held in August at the earliest. Discussion has
therefore shifted to the controversial idea of allowing
Strenuous opposition by the military and some
parliamentarians delayed another measure stipulated by the
MOU, establishment of a human rights court and a commission
for truth and reconciliation. Their creation is imperative
to end the reign of impunity. During my visit, I found many
Achenese eager to talk about their suffering during martial
law, but also concerned that speaking up might get them in
trouble. Indeed, a recent poll shows half the population
still worried about arbitrary arrests by security forces.
The struggle to resolve these difficult issues makes for
less spectacular news than killer tsunami waves do. But the
international community's continued attention is required
nonetheless. Donors need to do more to ensure adequate speed
and quality in reconstruction and progress in the peace
In leading the Acheh Monitoring Mission, the European
Union has played an important role overseeing implementation
of the MOU. The monitors' presence is to end by June 15.
Indonesia's Vice President Yusuf Kalla has offered an
extension to August. But to ensure a fair and stable
political process, the EU should press for a considerably
The Bush administration has been eager to restore ties
with Indonesia's Army. But this is ill-advised. Foreign
military aid should be put on hold until democratization and
peacemaking are much further along.
Peace is not yet irreversible and reconstruction has a
long way to go. But in sharp contrast to Sri Lanka - where
the aftermath of the tsunami has actually led to a deepening
of the civil war divide - Acheh has the potential to become
a success story: a phoenix rising from the ashes.
For more information on this report, please contact
Michael Renner, the director of the Global Security Project
Worldwatch Institute, a
research and policy organization based in Washington.