Tear of Acehnese people:Wisdom from Aceh Conflict


Indonesia is a large, poor, resource-abundant country within the history of massive violent conflict. It would be no surprise of rebellion, dispute, and conflict merely always happened in Indonesia due to its supportive conditions. Do you wonder why do we call it as supportive conditions? Similar to what we have already mention on the first sentence that Indonesia is well-known as a country with huge amount of population and high level of diversity. In other word, Indonesia is a country that has a community with high level’s plurality. If the government was actually succeeded to transform that advantage of us being truly benefit for every one of its citizen, it will not lead into problems. But our government has failed! Besides of that fact, Indonesia also categorized as developing country or middle lower level country at least at that time. Those facts again play roles as the supportive element of occurring conflict in Indonesia. Regarding to the concept that we have already learned from the previous occasion, The high level of plurality in Indonesia within our condition as a poor country, it will lead into consequences that Indonesian people are much more easier to be involved in what we so called conflict.


One of the huge insurgency in Indonesia is Aceh conflict. This long lasting Aceh conflict in 1976 to 2005 was waged by what we so called Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) or Free Aceh Movement in order to obtain independence from Indonesia. Hence we call say that this conflict involved between some people of Acehnese who make separatist movement to separate from Indonesia and the government of Indonesia who try to hold them as a part of Indonesia.

When we are talking about Aceh conflict, the main subtopic must be focuses on the rise of Aceh’s rebel organization, known by the popular acronym “GAM”. Indeed, Aceh conflict began in 4 december 1976 when Hasan di Tiro established the Free Aceh Movement, or GAM (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka) and declare Acehnese independence. This was the first time there was a movement demanding Aceh’s independence from Indonesia. The movement, however, drew on earlier traditions of resistance against outside powers, including the long war against Dutch colonial expansion and the Darul Islam revolt in the 1950s, which had aimed for an autonomous Aceh within a wider Islamic state of Indonesia.  GAM aimed for independence rather than autonomy.

Generally, GAM has had three incarnations in this conflict. the first in 1976-79, when it was small and ill-equipped, and was easily suppressed by the military; the second in 1989-91, when it was larger, better trained and better equipped, and was only put down through harsh security measures; and the third beginning in 1999, when it became larger and better funded than ever before, challenging the Indonesian government’s control of the province.

During its 1976-79 incarnations, GAM was small, unorganized and under-financed, and was easily quell by the government. Still, the brief 1976-79 incarnation of GAM would contribute to the resurgence of GAM in 1989-91. In this period, GAM engaged just in few military activities. It never controlled any territory and it was forced to move or hiding as soon as the Indonesian army discovers them. Much of GAM’s activity consisted of distributing pamphlets and raising an Acehnese flag. They possessed only a “few old guns and remnants from World War II,” and extorted money from townspeople to support their efforts. Generally, in this first phase, GAM were not recognized as a big rebel separatist movement and not as a threat to the government until eventually government shut it down in 1977 and Hasan di Tiro was forced to leave the country, and most of his followers either fled with him or were killed by the military.

GAM’s second coming in 1989 was aided solely by three factors: support from a foreign government, apparently with financial support from Libya and Iran; assistance from local Indonesian security officers; and grievances among the population. Even though GAM was larger and better equipped this time, rather than it had been a decade earlier, it still failed to win widespread support. They have undergone intensive military training since 1986 in Libya, and start a new rebellion. GAM was far more aggressive in 1989 than it had been in 1977, due to both its larger size and better training.

Until mid-1990, the government responded to GAM in a low-key manner until June 1990, President Soeharto ordered additional troops to Aceh and ordered Aceh regarded as a “DOM” (Daerah Operasi Militar, “area of military operations,”), a designation that has no fixed definition or legal status but implies that the military can conduct its operations with impunity. The government’s response was successful in the short term: by the end of 1991, many of GAM’s field commanders had been captured or killed. But actually it gave bad impact to the government itself. The government’s brutality produced a deep-seated antipathy towards Jakarta and ultimately contributed to GAM’s third incarnation in 1999.

Yet in early 1999 GAM reappeared and began to grow more quickly than it ever had before. They were taking advantages from economic crisis in 1998. At this stage, both Gam and the government were taking violence way to solve the problem. GAM used propaganda campaign, disable local government and replace it under GAM supervises, and the most effective was by attracting international attention and sympathy. On the other hand, the government’s strategy has been to combine military pressure on GAM with a political campaign to reduce GAM’s popularity by granting Aceh greater autonomy from Jakarta.

This equality actually was essentially resulted from what we so called bad impact of high level plurality. Acehnese people feel inequality that they got compare to other ethnic particularly in Java such as Javanese and Sundanese. Acehnese people they have already so much deeds for the sake of Indonesia until Indonesia got the independence.

Besides of that, Aceh’s natural resource mostly used for Javanese not for the Acehnese people. In Soeharto’s new order regime, used myriad forms of coercion to produce a large majority at the national level for its own party (known as Golkar). The autonomy that have already enforce by Tengku daud Beureuh was totally revoked in Soeharto era. It triggers anger by some of Acehnese people including Hasan di Tiro. Then he eventually made a separatist organization, GAM, to fight for Acehnese independence over injusticeful Indonesia’s government.

Sporadic armed clashes continued to occur throughout the province until the devastating tsunami in December 2004. Because of the separatist movement in the area, the Indonesian government has had access restrictions in place on the press and aid workers. The Indonesian government has, however, opened the region up to international relief efforts.

And then for some reason, including the gigantic disaster tsunami, peace eventually prevailed in 2005. In President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono era, there are changes in the Indonesia military hence it helped create a better environment to peace talk. At the same time, the Gam leader was changed and it made inflicted so much damage on the rebel movement that it had no choice but to negotiate with the central government. The peace talks were facilitated by a Finland-based NGO, the Crisis Management Initiative, and led by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. The resulting peace agreement was signed on August 15, 2005. Under the agreement, Aceh would receive special autonomy under Republic of Indonesia, and non-organic government troops would be withdrawn from the province (leaving only 2500 soldiers) in exchange for GAM’s disarmament.


This long-last conflict gives us so many valued to be reflected for a better Indonesia in the future. In this democratic era, equality is indeed one of the most important things in our beloved country. The government should be able to give equal intentions and ‘care’ to every single person in Indonesia no matter what condition is. Even if it’s on the furthest and on most tip of Indonesia, there is no exception for the government to treat them equally, in order to avoid such conflict and insurgency in Indonesia. If the government are succeed to accomplished that, I believe that Indonesia will be a developed country where the citizen happy to live in.