The Politics of Ceasefires : On Ceasefire Agreements and Peace Processes in Aceh and Sri Lanka

Abstract: In recent decades we have seen an increase in peace processes aimed at solving armed conflicts through peaceful means. The often fragile characteristics of such processes and the settlements that they produce underline the essential importance of improving our understanding of the dynamics at play in transitions from war to peace. This thesis aims to contribute to this overarching objective by analysing ceasefire agreements in relation to peace processes in two protracted intrastate armed conflicts: Aceh, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka. In the scholarly literature, ceasefire agreements are often assumed to create momentum due to their ability to pave the way to a peaceful solution. At the same time, it has also been suggested that ceasefires can influence conflict dynamics in negative ways. Although there are many unanswered questions about ceasefire agreements in contemporary peace processes, few studies have been devoted to systematic and in-depth analysis of how ceasefire agreements can be characterized and analysed in relation to peace processes in protracted intrastate conflicts. This thesis, which is based on written documents and on interviews conducted during four research trips to the region, contributes to filling this research gap by presenting comparative case studies of Aceh and Sri Lanka. The point of departure in the study is a process-oriented, conflict dynamics approach and a view that war-to-peace transitions require changes in the conflicting parties’ attitudes, behaviours and relationships. I analyse and compare ceasefire agreements by looking at their initiation, form and content, and by examining their implementation and the unfolding of the processes. I identify six key factors in the literature that can influence the conflicting parties’ attitudes, behaviours and relationships. I then use these factors to analyse ceasefire agreements in relation to the dynamics of the broader peace processes. In this thesis I show how these key factors – including issues of recognition, trust, whether the parties’ claims are met, international involvement, contextual changes and intra-party dynamics – have mattered. I also show that context is important for understanding how and why they have mattered. The results suggest that ceasefire agreements can facilitate war-topeace transitions; however, it also illuminates challenges and the risk that such agreements can be counter-productive in the context of intrastate conflicts. The study also shows that ceasefire agreements have a historical legacy, as illustrated by their impact on subsequent interactions and agreements, and it underlines the symbolic politics of ceasefires in asymmetrical intrastate conflicts. The thesis ends with a number of propositions, among others that ceasefire agreements tend to become more comprehensive over time and that power struggles and developments within the conflicting parties are important for understanding ceasefire agreements in relation to contemporary peace processes.