Indonesian Rebels End Insurgency After 30 Years
Indonesia’s Free Aceh Movement insurgents have laid down their arms after thirty years of fighting:
Rebels in Indonesia’s tsunami-ravaged Aceh province formally disbanded their armed wing Tuesday, ending a 29-year struggle for independence that killed thousands so the movement could participate in elections next year. Free Aceh Movement fighters returned to peace talks with the government after mammoth waves crashed into Aceh’s coastlines a year ago, leaving at least 156,000 of the province’s people dead or missing and a half-million more homeless.
The two sides signed an accord in August, and the rebels last week finished handing over their self-declared 840 weapons. Tuesday’s disbanding was the next major step under the plan, and it carried large symbolic weight. “The armed wing of the Free Aceh Movement has demobilized and disbanded,” said rebel commander Sofyan Daud, effectively ending the separatist insurgency that has killed at least 15,000 people since 1976. “The Aceh national army is now part of civil society, and will work to make the peace deal a success,” he said after meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh. “We are entering a political era now. We do not need weapons anymore.”
Instead, the guerrillas will participate in April elections in this province of 4 million people on the northern tip of Sumatra island.
Good news, although a long time coming. One wonders how much longer the fighting would have continued had the tsunami not suddenly reordered Indonesia’s priorities.