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InterPeace set to monitor Aceh post conflict

Jakarta Post - December 20, 2006

Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh – While the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) on Friday concluded its 15-month mandate to supervise the implementation of the peace agreement in the province, non-governmental organization InterPeace will soon begin work to monitor the peace process.

"InterPeace will not replace the AMM. We are only assigned to monitor the peace in Aceh," an InterPeace consultant in Indonesia, Farid Husain, said Tuesday.

He said the organization, led by the mediator of the Helsinki peace talks between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), Martti Ahtisaari, would provide the government with information on threats to the peace process.

"We won't make decisions on problems, but instead provide the government with information," said Farid, who was also involved in the peace talks that led to the signing of the peace deal in August last year.

The organization will place 35 observers across Aceh. They are scheduled to begin their work in March next year.

InterPeace Indonesia's consultant for international relations, Juha Christensen, said all but three members of the group would be Acehnese.

"In this program, basically only the Acehnese do the work. That is why we call the program domestic ownership or local ownership. It is because it involves locals who know the customs and problems here," said Christensen, a former AMM member.

He said the AMM and InterPeace would have different roles. The AMM, he said, had the authority to respond to conflicts, while InterPeace would only serve as an observer and consultant.

"When a problem emerges, we will only serve as a consultant. The Acehnese should be the ones solving their problems," he said.

Christensen said there were several matters InterPeace would work on: continuing the peace process between the government and GAM, reconciliation in Aceh, increasing women's participation in the peace process, economic development and youth problems.

InterPeace plans to remain in Aceh for four years, and hopes to monitoring the 2009 elections in the province.

Based in Geneva, Switzerland, InterPeace comprises members from the US and European Union countries such as Belgium.

This mission in Aceh will be its first in Southeast Asia. The group has worked in Africa and the Middle East.

Before departing, AMM head Pieter Feith said the international community would remain attentive to the progress in Aceh, including several unresolved issues.

These include the reintegration of former GAM combatants into society and the resolution of human rights abuses during the more than three decades of fighting that left some 15,000 people dead and forced many more to flee their homes.

Feith has said he trusts the verbal commitment of the Indonesian government to resolve past rights abuses, which will include creating a human rights tribunal and a truth and reconciliation commission for Aceh.