Indonesia and Aceh: Forcing the Issue

After six months of ceasefire, Aceh is once more at war. The independence movement overplayed its hand on the ground, while Jakarta’s decisions have become hostage to a growing Indonesian nationalism. Despite renewed hostilities, the Aceh conflict is ultimately a political one with no military solution - and both sides know it.

The World Today Published 1 June 2003 Updated 21 June 2023 4 minute READ

Dr Kirsten E. Schulze

Senior Lecturer, International History, London School of Economics

On May 19, just six months after the signing of the agreement to end hostilities between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), martial war was declared and the military operation began. While international attention was focused on the war against Iraq, the Aceh ceasefire became increasingly tenuous. Violations on both sides and the lack of progress on controlling GAM’s weapons, finding a new role for the Indonesian mobile police, and moving the Indonesian military towards a defensive posture led to a spiral of armed clashes and mutual recrimination.

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