Ending the armed conflict in Indonesia (Central Sulawesi)


The intercommunal violence in Central Sulawesi was ended by an Indonesian military deployment and the mediation of a peace agreement.

After three decades in power, the authoritarian leader of Indonesia, Suharto, was forced to resign on 21 May 1998 in the face of a severe economic crisis, widespread demonstrations, and growing opposition from within his administration. In this uncertain context, armed clashes took place across the country with growing frequency. In Poso, a district in the diverse province of Central Sulawesi on the Greater Sunda Islands, fighting between Christian and Muslim militia erupted on 24 December 1998.1 In April 2000, a much larger bout of violence occurred, this time escalating into a conflict which led to the complete destruction of two towns, the eviction of swathes of the local Christian population from their homes, and the increasing polarisation of the diverse Sulawesi population into two camps: the predominantly Christian “Reds” and the majority-Muslim “Whites.” The conflict continued at a relatively low intensity, with regular clashes taking place between militia armed with machetes, bows, and homemade shotguns until July 2001, when a radical Islamic group known as Laskar Jihad entered the fray, bringing automatic weapons and an unprecedented level of organisation to the conflict.2

In July 2001, a change of administration in Jakarta had a significant impact on the conflict. Over 1,500 troops supported by 10 tanks and a wide range of police and paramilitary units were deployed to Poso, leading to some clashes with both Red and White forces. However, when the fighting threatened to spread into neighbouring districts in November 2001, these troops formed the core of a major operation to stop the fighting, disarm combatants, and restore the rule of law to Central Sulawesi. The urgency with which this operation took place compared with previous efforts is believed to have been directly influenced by the 11 September 2001 attacks on the USA. Within a month, Indonesian security forces succeeded in halting the conflict, creating the climate for negotiations to begin. A government minister from Sulawesi led the mediation team, which proceeded to invite a wide range of stakeholders to participate in the talks. The negotiations culminated on 20 December 2001 with the Malino Declaration for Poso, which called for the cessation of hostilities and the return of security and the rule of law.3 The conflict in Poso cost the lives of around 1,000 people, and although the area was plagued by shootings and bombings mostly perpetrated by Laskar Jihad until 2007, the intercommunal violence was ended by a military deployment and the negotiation of the Malino Declaration for Poso.4

1 Human Rights Watch. “Breakdown: Four Years of Communal Violence in Central Sulawesi.” HRW, Vol. 14, No. 9. (2002) p.15

2 Dave McRae. A Few Poorly Organised Men: Interreligious Violence in Poso, Indonesia. (Brill, 2013) p.84

3 Malino Declaration to End Conflict and Create Peace in Poso (Malino I), 2001. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/indonesia-malinoI2001 (Accessed 2/12/2021)

4 Human Rights Watch. “Breakdown.” pp.38-9; For the post-Malino violence, see: International Crisis Group. “Indonesia Backgrounder: Jihad in Central Sulawesi.” ICG Asia Report, No. 74. (2004) p.28

Start Year


End Year



Poso, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia

UN Regional Group


Type of Conflict

Horizontal (non-state) intrastate conflict

Type of Initiative

Mediation of a peace agreement, Military intervention

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The Government of Indonesia




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