Book on Aceh could raise hopes for Ahtisaari Nobel Peace Prize
Finnish book soon to appear in English as well
The recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize will be announced in Oslo on October 13th. One name that has been put forward has been former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, who helped in the negotiations leading to a peace agreement between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels in the country’s embattled Aceh Province.
As if to lay the groundwork for a possible Nobel Prize, a book by journalist Katri Merikallio detailing Ahtisaari’s peace efforts, was published on Thursday. An English language version of the book is to come out on Friday next week.
Merikallio describes the background and peace process of the civil war in Aceh, which had continued for 30 years, in a thorough, interesting, and expert manner.
Although the negotiations and the arrangements required the hard work of an extensive background team, Ahtisaari rose above others as the giant of peace diplomacy, and as the hero of the book.
In just seven months Ahtisaari managed to work out a peace treaty between the ancient enemies. The agreement between the Indonesian government and GAM was signed in Helsinki on August 15th, 2005.
The treaty proved to be more than a mere piece of paper to be ignored. Both sides have dutifully implemented it: the guerrillas have handed over their weapons, and Indonesia has pulled its forces out of the province, according to the set timetable.
Aceh is also to have local elections in December this year; there seems to be no going back on peace.
The book details the dramatic negotiations in such a lively manner, that the reader can easily imagine that he or she is at the venue of the talks - the Königstedt Manor in Vantaa. Although the atmosphere in the talks was at times as chilly as the weather outside, Ahtisaari refused to give up.
His presence was like that of an old-fashioned school headmaster standing next to the desk of a defiant pupil to straighten him out. Negotiators of GAM and the Indonesian government are amazed, and even startled at Ahtisaari’s tough action.
This dictatorial angel of peace was actually given the nickname "Ayatollah Ahtisaari". He was insistent that old sins should not be revisited, and that eyes should be on the future.
The book depicts Ahtisaari as unshakable among his own people as well.
When European Commission representative Aldo Dell’Ariccia arrived to visit Ahtisaari’s Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) office, the enthusiastic employees told him that the negotiations began in January and will end in August.
Dell’Ariccia was worried to hear the plans, and asked how well the people at CMI understood the situation in Indonesia and Aceh. "We don’t know Indonesia, but we do know Ahtisaari", answered one CMI employee.
However, at the publication of the book on Thursday, Ahtisaari himself emphasised that peacemaking is not "a one-man show".
He emphasised that each peace process is different, and requires different solutions. Contrary to his present Kosovo mission, the peace in Aceh was more up to the efforts of his group.
"In Kosovo, the role of the international bodies is more important than mine", he said.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Ahtisaari calls Aceh treaty surprisingly successful on first anniversary (15.8.2006)
President Ahtisaari pleased with progress in Aceh peace process (14.9.2005)
Finnish Parliament to put Ahtisaari forward for Nobel Peace Prize (25.8.2005)
Kalle Liesinen to help disarm Aceh guerrillas (23.8.2005)
Thousands in Aceh celebrate as peace treaty is signed in Helsinki (16.8.2005)
Latest round of Aceh peace talks concludes in Finland on optimistic note (1.6.2005)