The Roots of Acehnese Rebellion, 1989-1992
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When armed insurgents began to attack government soldiers in the Indonesian province of Aceh with increasing frequency in the middle of 1989, it was apparent that this distinctive part of the far-flung republic was adding yet another period of turmoil, rebellion, and blood-letting to those that had marked its history over the previous hundred years. Famous for their long war against the Dutch in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, the Acehnese were equally well-known for their willingness to resort to arms to defend their identity and interests against the encroachments of postindependence Indonesian governments. As early as 1953 a rebellion had broken out against the central government, and in the latter part of the 1970s another attempt had been made to foment revolt.
This study seeks to explain the reasons for the most recent uprising in Aceh. Part one sketches the region’s history up to the mid-1960s. Part Two examines the economic, political, and social changes that have occurred in Aceh over the past quarter of a century, under the New Order regime: the roots of rebellion in the province. This analysis goes beyond the period defined in the title of the study: the end of rebellion does not mean that its root causes have been resolved. Part Three looks at the rebellion itself, and at the complexion of political power in Aceh in the early 1990s. Part Four summarizes the principal arguments of the monograph.
The main thesis of this study is that exploitation of Aceh’s resources for the benefit of the central government; economic stagnation in the province itself; governmental and political overcentralization which has served to disenfranchise the people of the region; and social changes which have led to the mass of Acehnese losing their traditional social and political leaders, have combined to open the way for an armed separatist movement to foment rebellion in the province.