Indonesia: A Tidal Wave of Peace in Aceh


9\19\2005September 18, 2005: A bomb went off in Central Sulawesi province, wounding four people. Religious violence between Moslems and Christians has been going on for several years, with police and army reinforcements brought in to keep the radicals from both sides, but especially the Moslem ones, quiet. 

In Aceh, 800 troops left, as part of the peace deal. In return for the rebels disarming, the Aceh provincial government gets to have its own flag, 70 percent of revenue from natural resources in the province (which is rich in oil and gas), restrictions on how many army troops can be in Aceh, and where they can go. The national government will still have control over defense, foreign affairs and the provincial budget. Aceh has, for centuries, been a very powerful and independent state, which grew rich  trading  with Moslem merchants from India and Arabia. Aceh finally lost its independence to Holland, which had already colonized the rest of Indonesia, a century ago. When the Dutch left in the 1950s, Aceh reluctantly became part of Indonesia. Separatist violence over the last two decades got worse and worse, killing some 15,000 people. But what really forced the current deal was the earthquake and tidal waves last December, which left 170,000 dead, and half a million homeless. About a quarter of Aceh's four million inhabitants lost something because of  the disaster, and the shock forced the separatists to give up their goal of independence, and settle for more autonomy.

September 15, 2005: In Aceh, the 3,000 armed rebels have begun turning in their weapons. This is to be completed by the end of the year. The rebels say they have 840 firearms, and 70 of them were turned in today.




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