Indonesia's government and separatists from Aceh province today signed a peace agreement ending three decades of conflict. The signing ceremony in Helsinki was transmitted live by video link to Jakarta, where it was witnessed by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The accord calls for separatists lay down their arms by Dec. 31, followed in April by Aceh's first election, according to a draft of the document obtained by Bloomberg News before the signing. The Free Aceh Movement, known as GAM, is due to start handing over weapons to the authorities Sept. 15.
“No one should underestimate the difficulties of bringing an end to a 30-year-old conflict,” Sidney Jones, Indonesian project director for the International Crisis Group, which researches conflicts and terrorism, said in a statement. “Peace is not a done deal. The demobilization and disarmament phases will be critical,” reports Bloomberg.
According to Times Online, the province of Aceh, which is thick with jungle and also has valuable oil and gas reserves, was devastated by the tsunami last year. The waves left 168,000 dead and almost 600,000 homeless, of whom more than 150,000 are still living in camps.
The tsunami provided the first opportunity for decades for international aid organizations and foreign governments to visit Aceh, where GAM declared a truce in the days after the disaster. Since then, America and the European Union have put pressure on Jakarta to find a way to end the violence.
“What the children and communities of Aceh need most is a period of stability and reflection to allow them to continue the healing process. This agreement should provide a stable and safe environment for them to do exactly that” said Michael Diamond, Plan Asia regional office, director.
“Almost 30 years of conflict has inflicted huge suffering on the people of Aceh, the tsunami took that suffering to an unimaginable level. This agreement says it’s time for the suffering to stop and the healing to begin.” he added, informs Reuters.