Following nearly three decades of conflict and a series of failed ceasefire agreements, on 15 August 2005, the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Government of Indonesia reached an historic peace agreement to end the fighting and to give Aceh a high degree of genuine autonomy. The catalyst for the talks that produced this agreement was the devastating tsunami of 26 December 2004, which left almost 170,000 dead or missing in Aceh and destroyed most of the populated low-lying areas. Despite the massive destruction, the peace talks were conducted under an intensified military campaign. GAM made a major concession to the talks by announcing early that it was prepared to negotiate an outcome other than complete independence. The Indonesian side, however, under pressure from the military and "nationalists" in Jakarta, pressed for GAM to accept a minor reworking of the status quo. The international community, meanwhile, just pressed for a settlement. In the end, the Indonesian government also compromised, and the two parties reached an agreement that was intended to end the fighting and to address many, if not all, of GAM's outstanding claims. Despite opposition to the talks process, and to compromise, the outcome was increasingly seen both in Jakarta and in Aceh as a "win-win" situation, and as a further significant step in Indonesia's continuing process of reform and democratization. Peace in Aceh offers an insider's personal account of that peace process and is required reading for anyone wishing to understand this troubled province. DR. DAMIEN KINGSBURY is Associate Professor in the School of International and Political Studies and Director of International and Community Development at Deakin University, Victoria, Australia. He was political adviser to GAM for the peace talks and assisted in drafting and negotiating key elements of the peace agreement. Dr. Kingsbury has published extensively on Indonesian politics, the military and regional security issues, including The Politics of Indonesia (3rd edition 2005), Violence in Between: Conflict and Security in Archipelagic Southeast Asia (2005), and Power Politics and the Indonesian Military (2003).
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