Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Conflict Transformation and Social Reconciliation: The Case of Aceh, Indonesia

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Conflict Transformation and Social Reconciliation: The Case of Aceh, Indonesia

Article excerpt


This paper will discuss conflict transformation in Aceh and analyzes it in the international, structural, actor, issues, and personal contexts. The data show that the five contexts are supportive of the transformation of conflict from an armed rebellion and peaceful referendum to social reconciliation. The Aceh case shows also the complexity of the reconciliation that includes three parties: the GAM (Free Aceh Movement), which emphasizes politico-economic redistribution; the Islamic community, which demands the impelementation of Syariah (Islamic laws); and the central government, which determines to preserve the territorial integrity. The agreement and new law were impelemented and resulted in compromise and consensus in socio-political spheres in the new Aceh.

Keywords: Separatism, Ethnonationalism, Conflict transformation, Social reconciliation, Autonomous region, Aceh

1. Introduction

The coming of peace between the Government of Indonesia (GoI) and GAM (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka or Free Aceh Movement) in Aceh in 2005 was a turning point for Aceh, which has experienced long-term conflict in its history. Aceh became the last region conquered by the Dutch between 1873 and 1914 and the Dutch colonial war took a heavy toll of lives among its population, resulting in the death of 100 000 Acehnese and 16 000 Dutch (Bhakti, 2008, p. 9). After independence in 1945, there was a social revolution when 1,500 pro-Dutch hulubalang or aristocrats became victims of the ulama (Islamic scholars)-dominated forces. Moreover, there was a rebellion between 1953 and 1963, in which local leaders under the ulama and supported by local society, police and the army participated in it (Sjamsuddin, 1985). They demanded the establishment of a special autonomous region with the implementation of Syariah but it failed.

The last conflict led by GAM occurred between 1976 and 2005 and claimed between 3,800 and 35 000 lives (Kompas, November 24, 2002). The conflict ended in 2006 and the demand shifted from independence to referendum, then self-government, and currently to the acceptance of special autonomy "plus." Looking back at Indonesian history, the reconciliation and reintegration of conflicting parties from armed conflict to the political arena by competing in the general elections is something very unusual. Previous conflicts were won by the GoI followed by legal enforcement and also "by accepting the rebel back to the fatherland," but the losers were prohibited or restricted in politics. Furthermore, conflicts with the PKI (Communist Party of Indonesia) in 1965 were settled by violence and repressive law, where their former members and relatives experienced political and social death.

The conflict in Aceh and its various dimensions such as its causes, process and peace reconciliation have been analyzed by a number of scholars. A theoretical analysis of GAM and nationalism has been constructed by Aspinall (2009), while a historical analyses of the conflict, which dates back to the sixteenth century, is provided by Reid et al. (2006). The process of the peace agreement has been written by a participant (Awaludin, 2009) and the early implementation of the peace agreement has been analyzed by the Indonesian Institute of Science (Bhakti et al., 2008). Finally, the change in Acehnese society is the subject of studies by Tornquist et al. (2009) and Palmer (2010). All the works on Aceh contribute to our understanding of the conflict and peace. However, a parsimonious analysis focussing on conflict resolution is still needed to explain the complexity of the Acehnese conflict. In this regard, a model developed by Miall (2004, pp. 9-11; Ramsbotham et al., 2005, pp.163-165) is relevant and he identifies five types of conflict transformations: first, context transformation such as the Cold War; second, structural transformation that is related to the power structure; third, actor transformation that includes the change in leadership and the supporters of the leaders; fourth, issue transformation concerns with the position of the parties in reaching compromise; and fifth, personal transformation of hearts and minds of individual leaders or decision-makers. …

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