Aceh : Measurably a Successful DDR?

Looking over at the Aceh Peace Process, post conflict building is certainly a complex task that involves aspects such as secure environment, legitimate government rule of law, economic and social revitalization and social reconciliation. Furthermore, additional challenge remains to be an impediment for the Government of Indonesia. For example, Indonesia is still hampered by the fact that it needs to continue to increase its institutional capacities, organizational coordination and to continue its initial peace program in Aceh with an environment that is week politically and uncertainty. However, most scholars and practitioners have underlined that the Aceh Peace Process, which included a pertinent DDR program, is deemed a great success story.

Certainly, the objective of DDR differs from country to country and that the goal should only be made explicitly towards the security concern and the actors involve. The success story of the DDR program in Aceh is by no means helped by two important factors. First the paradigm of conflict in Aceh is underlined by the nature of the conflict. Unlike many civil wars that occur in African regions, where the power struggle is entangled by many factions and parties, the Aceh situation is deemed to be “popular movement” for an increase of regional autonomy rather than a balanced struggle between groups for a control over countries “sovereignty” nor resources. Second, the Tsunami event that happened in the late 2004 played a significant factor as the disaster successfully crippled the existing network of individuals in Aceh.

For all we know culture plays a very important role and it profoundly influences how individuals interact, think and relate with each other. In the case of Aceh, the community somehow had strong correlations between the one and another and that intra nor intercommunity relationship did not pose a threat towards peace. Ironically, the relationship between the fighters/GAM and the civilian population remained strong. As a result, the process of reintegrating individuals into society was somewhat “smooth”. For example, even after three years of the MoU (peace process) evidence shown that there is a high level of trust between combatants and non-combatants thus social cohesion remains intact.

One interesting aspect regarding the reintegration process in Aceh is that post war transition has triggered a move from the use of violent means towards political processes approaches by the ex-combatants. Most importantly, ex-combatants and their representative saw an opportunity and seize the existing momentum. For example, individuals accepted the legitimacy of rule of law and existing state institutions and for that reason commanders of GAM and other representatives began to see bigger opportunities through the existing democratic political processes.

As administered by the MoU individuals are welcome to access positional power in the districts and provinces. Furthermore, since the relationship between the intra-inter community is strong (i.e. ex-combatant and civilians) it was seen to be very easy to garner popularity needed to win an election. In the spirit of democratic election particularly in 2006, the Gubernatorial and most district head officials taken up by ex-rebel group members and GAM former representatives

Exemplified above are brief example of how a peace process coupled with external factors can certainly create an environment that is conducive for DDR programs (pre-conditions). Certainly the peace process would have not been successful if it weren’t for the actors involve (Government of Indonesia, Finland, European Union and GAM). What we can certainly underline is the fact that the DDR approach in Aceh is focused towards assistances that includes broad set of activities aimed at supporting conflict to peace transitions.

By Danurdoro Parnohadiningrat

One thought on “Aceh : Measurably a Successful DDR?

  1. A Sociological Interpretation of DDR

    The sociological process of cutting ties to militant groups requires a significant rearrangement of an individual’s social structures. Considering the function of symbolic and social ties can help practitioners gauge the social factors that lead to the successful reintegration of ex-combatant. Sociology overall can provide a valuable interpretation of DDR, and can help practitioners understand the sociological processes underlying the success of DDR programming.

    From a sociological perspective, DDR is the re-socialization of ex-combatants into society. Through a process of social and symbolic engagement, ex-combatants are subjected to more stable and productive social forces and structures. Considering the sum of practices, symbols, norms, ideologies, and material objects present in ex-combatants’ everyday lives, can help practitioners unpack the complex sociological processes entrenching DDR programming.

    DDR programs are a string of symbolic interactions and social constructions. Disarmament and demobilization happens through micro-level social interactions. In this, combatants perform an action to the community signifying a change in his/her behavior and status in society. From society’s perspective, this process is an initiation right, signifying the ex-combatant’s loyalty to his/her new social group. From the perspective of society, the ex-combatant is making him/her self socially accountable to the community, whereas from the perspective of the ex-combatant, he/she is symbolically beginning to socially-construct a new identity in society.

    Reintegration is a continuous socializing practice, more so than a symbolic ritual. In the long-standing endeavor, ex-combatants subject themselves to a different set of social norms and social values in daily engagement. Not only do they change their identity from combatants to civilians, but also reduce or eliminate their contact with or reliance on their previous military networks. This often includes relatives and essential support systems, which makes it difficult for ex-combatants to maintain a degree of seperation.

    Similarly to communities, militias are social groups consisting of support networks, norms, a common identity and boundaries of separation. They offer a sense of belonging, and in turn demand a degree of conformity to function. In a sense, militias have push and pull factors, which DDR programs can benefit from understanding. Eliminating a social identity linked with militant groups requires diminishing ties and support systems connecting them to ex-combatants. This is possible only if DDR programs can fill substantial voids left from previous social support systems.

    Successful reintegration requires embedding productive abstractions into the social institutions within a given society. On an individual level, it requires newer and stricter forms of cooperation and an increased capacity to create a complex social life by submitting to a generally accepted degree of conformity and set of moral judgments. On a societal level, it requires the infrastructure to socialize ex-combatants. The greatest method of socialization is in the form of educational achievement. While current forms of short-term vocational training in the past has been successful in certain outlets, longer-term infrastructure for educational attainment can have inter-generational effects and provide lasting outlets for continual community engagement.

    Self-sustaining education infrastructure is an important center for re-socialization, thus more research should be conducted to explore the practical application of this endeavor. Furthermore, providing long-term education can face many different operational impediments, for example educating participants in remote rural areas. Thus, more research should be done in areas developing strategic solutions to these problems. The nexus between information and communication technologies (ICT) and education in DDR is also another area that is in need of more research.

    Given the simultaneous social processes taking place throughout the DDR trajectory, it is imperative that practitioners both consider and address the sociological dimensions of ex-combatants in their community reintegration. Sociological approaches can help professionals account for both individuals and communities in DDR programming. By viewing reintegration as a process of social disengagement and engagement, re-socialization, and the (re-) consolidation of social values and norms, practitioners can better understand the social dimensions of reintegration in DDR.

    By Nick Palombo

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