Banana leaves, fiery sambal and democracy in Indonesia

Idasa’s iLEDA visits Schools for Democracy in Indonesia

On the first floor above a diner that offers local delicacies wrapped in banana leaves and fiery Sambal rice dishes, Sekolah Demokrasi Pangkep offers 35 people the chance to discuss democracy and what it means to them, every Sunday for 9 months. Two facilitators provide guidance to the mostly young women and men (women make up about a third of participants in KID’s democracy schools). Resource people, often university lecturers or local experts, provide teachings on more specialised issues.

Read more about this initiative between Idasa, NIMD, Forum of African former Heads of State and Government.
See more pics from the trip here.

iLEDA visits two Indonesian Schools for Democracy in a bid to draw lessons from the Indonesian approach in order to strengthen our African Schools. The mission will build south-south relations that will foster exchanges of knowledge, experience and capacity.

by Olmo von Meijenfeldt

During the Easter weekend Idasa’s iLEDA (initiative for Leadership and Democracy in Africa) team comprising of Ms Noxolo Mgudlwa and Mr Olmo von Meijenfeldt visited two democracy schools of the Komunitas Indonesia untuk Demokrasi (Indonesian Community for Democracy – KID) in the districts of Tangerang (Banten province) and Pangkep (South Sulawesi province). The iLEDA team were accompanied by Mr Sugeng Bahagijo, the executive director of the KID and by Mr Will Derks, policy officer for Asia at the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD).

iLEDA is a democracy training programme that focuses on a new generation of citizen and political leaders from across Africa. It is a partner initiative of Idasa, the Forum of African former Heads of State and Government (www.africaforum.org) and NIMD (www.nimd.org), managed by Idasa in South Africa. iLEDA is interested in KID’s Democracy Schools to draw on their experience and strengthen the Schools in Africa. New relations between KID (www.komunitasdemokrasi.or.id) and Idasa are intended to see a continued exchange of experience, knowledge and capacities.

Retracing the footsteps of mystic Muslim scholar Sheik Yusuf from Ujung Pandang (Makassar) who was deported in the 17th century by then colonisers of Indonesia – the Dutch East Indies Company – to their Cape of Good Hope colony, Idasa’s iLEDA team visited a School for Democracy just north of Makassar in Pangkep district on Sulawesi island. In between the coral rich coast and a jagged mountain range Pangkep is a predominantly Muslim blue collar community which provides labour to extractive industries – cement and marble amongst others. In between the rice fields interspersed with old ornamental wooden houses on stilts and the odd domesticated water buffalo subspecies, Karbau, the town of Pangkajene houses the newest Sulawesi Sekolah Demokrasi.

On the first floor above a diner that offers local delicacies wrapped in banana leaves and fiery Sambal rice dishes, Sekolah Demokrasi Pangkep offers 35 participants from the area courses in democracy every Sunday for 9 months. Two facilitators provide guidance to the mostly young women and men. Women make up about a third of participants in KID’s democracy schools. Resource people, often university lecturers or local experts, provide teachings on more specialised issues.

A local Makassar based organisation, LAPAR (Institute of People for Education and Advocacy), is responsible for the implementation of the School. According to the facilitators of LAPAR and the head of the School the main challenge the Pangek community faces is the possible introduction of Sharia law. Local politicians and more conservative Muslim groups are working towards introducing Sharia law in the district. This is possible as the national government in Jakarta has granted more autonomy on district level while ensuring that on provincial level this will not happen – the fear is that increased provincial autonomy will fuel secessionist tendencies in Aceh and Maluku Utara for instance.

During the Easter Sunday School a local Muslim scholar’s training session is interrupted for a short presentation by the iLEDA team after which questions follow from the participants. There is predominant interest in the role of Islam in Africa, the history of apartheid, the democratic gains since apartheid and the role of Idasa in supporting democracy in South Africa and beyond. Discussions follow with LAPAR and their Schools team about their implementation strategies, experience and the alumni that the schools produce.

A main topic for discussion and south-south exchange of experience is how the Schools ensure that trainees or alumni continue to put in practice what they have learned without necessarily doing so on behalf of the schools or becoming over-reliant on the organisations behind the Schools. There is overwhelming agreement that the community of alumni is an asset to the Schools and their institutional backers but there are challenges regarding resources for alumni initiatives.

After the Easter weekend visits to the two KID Sekolah Demokrati the iLEDA team will hold in depth talks with the KID board of directors to learn from their organisational strategy and development. The team will visit the South Africa Embassy in Jakarta. Form the 11th until the 15th of April KID, NIMD and Idasa’s iLEDA will participate in the World Movement for Democracy’s 6th Assembly where the three partners will host a workshop on ‘informal education for “home-grown” democracy.’

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