The Indonesian government has begun withdrawing its security forces from Aceh province under a peace accord with separatist insurgents. Estimated at forty-six-thousand, the number of Indonesian troops and police in Aceh is to be reduced to fewer than twenty-four thousand by the end of the year. During the same period, insurgents of the Free Aceh Movement have agreed to disarm.
Founded in 1976, the Free Aceh Movement sought to establish an independent state in the northwestern region of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. More than nine-thousand people, many of them civilians, have been killed in the conflict. In December 2004, more than one-hundred-fifty-thousand were killed in a devastating tsunami. The disaster spurred popular demands for an end to the conflict between the government and the insurgents.
Under the accord, Aceh’s rebels have dropped their demand for independence and renounced violence. The Indonesian government has promised to work with the parliament to facilitate the creation of political parties in Aceh that meet national criteria. Separatists detained on political charges are to get their freedom August 31st. The government has committed to assist their reintegration into society. Among other economic concessions, Aceh province is to receive seventy percent of revenues generated by its oil and gas reserves.
Spokesman Andi Mallerangeng says the Indonesian government is committed to peace and reconciliation:
"We are hoping with this signing of the M-O-U [memorandum of understanding] is the beginning of a long and lasting peace in Aceh, of a comprehensive peace that we can now focus on rebuilding and reconstructing Aceh."
“This peace process has required a leap of faith from [the insurgents],” said group representative Malik Mahmud. “It is a leap of faith we have taken," he said, "to give the people of Aceh the opportunity to build a brighter future." State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the U.S. supports the accord between the Indonesian government and the Aceh separatists:
"We commend both parties for their vision and courage to seek a lasting peace for the people of Aceh. Successful implementation of the agreement will require steadfast commitment to peace by all parties."
The U.S., said Mr. McCormack, looks “forward to supporting the implementation of the peace agreement in the coming months.”
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.