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Former Rebels in Indonesia's Aceh Get Ready for Elections

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

Former separatist rebels from Indonesia's Aceh province are gearing up for local elections later this year.

Former rebel leaders from the Free Aceh Movement, known as GAM, are preparing to form a political party for local elections tentatively scheduled for August.

GAM leaders met with Indonesian Vice President Yusuf Kalla Thursday evening to talk about their future election plans.

The vice president said the government and GAM had resolved their problems and are now like "family."

Presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng says the government is pleased the peace process is running smoothly.

"The peace process is going well and we are happy with the result but we still have a lot more to do," he said. "I mean the goal for peace and the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aceh is the goal. We see that GAM is also holding their part of the bargain and we hope that this can continue to have long lasting peace and comprehensive peace in Aceh."

The government and GAM signed a peace deal last August just months after the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated Aceh, killing more than 160,000 people.

That propelled both the government and GAM back to the negotiating table where GAM dropped its demand for independence in exchange for the government's promise of self-government and as much as 70 percent of the revenues from Aceh's rich natural resources. The deal ended nearly three decades of conflict.

GAM spokesman Irawandi Yusuf says while so far the peace process has gone smoothly, GAM leaders expect the lead up to the elections will see a more complex situation as the organization moves from a rebel group to becoming part of the political structure.

"The peace process so far is good," he said. "Now when we entering political issue, then things become more tricky and trickier in the future."

GAM leaders say they also plan to field candidates for the 2009 national elections.

Parliament missed a March deadline to pass the Aceh governing law, which among other things will allow GAM to form a political party.

But lawmakers have promised to expedite the process so elections can take place in August.

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