Patterns of Collective Violence in Indonesia (1990-2003)

Patterns of Collective Violence in Indonesia (1990-2003)

Source: United Nations Support Facility for Indonesian Recovery (UNSFIR, Jakarta, Indonesia), Jakarta, July 2004.

Abstract: Indonesia has witnessed explosive group violence in recent years, but unlike its plentiful economic statistics, the data on conflict were remarkably sketchy. Because it wanted to give the appearance of order and stability, the New Order did not believe in publishing reports on group conflict, nor did it allow researchers and non-governmental organizations to probe the patterns and causes of conflict. This paper is based on the first database ever constructed on group violence in Indonesia. Following, and adapting for Indonesian conditions, methodologies developed and used elsewhere, we cover the years 1990-2003, split the data into various categories, and identify the national, regional and local patterns of collective violence. Much that we find is surprising, given the common perceptions about, and in, Indonesia. Of the several conclusions we draw, the most important one is that group violence in Indonesia is highly locally concentrated. Fifteen districts (kabupaten and kota), in which a mere 6.5 per cent of the country’s population lived in 2000, account for as much as 85.5 per cent of all deaths in group violence. Group violence is not as widespread as is normally believed. If we can figure out why so many districts remained reasonably quiet, even as the violent systemic shifts, such the decline of the New Order, deeply shook fifteen districts causing a large number of deaths, we may also understand how one should deal with the cataclysms of the endemically violent towns, as also how one might think about preventing, or minimizing, group violence in the coming years.

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