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Aceh's New Governor

In a written statement, the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia says the United States welcomes the inauguration of Irwandi Yusuf as government and Muhammad Nazar as deputy governor of Aceh province as a "positive step forward in Indonesia's democratic development and in the Aceh peace process."

The new governor of Aceh is a former rebel separatist. He was elected in December, following a peace agreement between the Indonesian government and the insurgent Free Aceh Movement. Irwandi Yusuf and deputy governor Muhammad Nazar were both senior members of the Free Aceh Movement. Mr. Yusuf says his top priority is to help the province recover from the 2004 tsunami that killed an estimated one-hundred-seventy-thousand Indonesians in Aceh province.

In 1976, Hasan di Tiro established the Free Aceh Movement to seek independence for the region. Some fifteen-thousand people died in fighting between the insurgents and Indonesian security forces.

A peace agreement between the rebels and the Indonesian government was signed in August 2005. The agreement provided for wide-ranging autonomy, including direct elections, for Aceh. On December 11, 2006, Aceh held gubernatorial and district administrative elections, the first democratic elections in over half a century in Aceh.

U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Lynn Pascoe congratulated Aceh’s new governor. “The United States has made significant contributions to the election, the peace process, and post-tsunami reconstruction,” said Mr. Pascoe. Since 2005, the U.S. has contributed thirteen-million dollars to the Aceh peace process. These funds are helping to support public education programs, rebuild conflict-affected communities, and provide election assistance and technical assistance to key government peace forums. The U.S. plans to continue its support for the peace process with an additional grant of fifteen-million dollars that will include training for newly elected government officials.

The U.S. is also providing four-hundred million dollars to support Aceh reconstruction efforts. Construction has begun on forty kilometers of the west coast road from Banda Aceh to Calang, over five-hundred new homes have been constructed, and over five-thousand families are benefiting from a revitalized organic coffee farming cooperative.