1980 Surinamese coup d'état

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Bouterse as military leader in 1985

The Surinamese coup d'état of 1980, usually referred to as the Sergeants' Coup (Dutch: De Sergeantencoup), occurred on 25 February 1980, when a group of 16 sergeants (Dutch: groep van zestien) led by Desi Bouterse overthrew the government of Prime Minister Henck Arron with a violent coup d'état.[1] This marked the beginning of the military dictatorship that dominated Suriname from 1980 until 1991. The dictatorship featured the presence of an evening curfew, the lack of freedom of press, a ban on political parties (since 1985), a restriction on the freedom of assembly, a high level of government corruption and the summary executions of political opponents.[2]

Developments[edit]

President Johan Ferrier was eventually forced out of office in August 1980, and several months after the coup d'état by Bouterse most of the political authority transferred to the military leadership. From then until 1988, the titular Presidents were essentially army-installed by Bouterse, who ruled as a de facto leader with few practical checks on his power.

December murders and Moiwana massacre[edit]

On 8 December 1982, a group of fifteen academics, journalists, lawyers, union leaders, and military officials, who opposed the military rule in Suriname were snatched from their beds and brought to Fort Zeelandia in Paramaribo where they were tortured and executed by Bouterse's soldiers. Fourteen of those executed were Surinamese; Frank Wijngaarde was a Dutch national. The events are known as the December murders.

In 1986 Bouterse's soldiers killed at least 39 citizens, mostly children and women, of the Maroon village of Moiwana, as part of the Suriname Guerrilla War which was fought between the soldiers of Bouterse and the Jungle Commando led by Ronnie Brunswijk.

Transition to democratic rule[edit]

Elections were held in 1987 and a new constitution was adopted, which among other things allowed Bouterse to remain in charge of the army. Dissatisfied with the government, Bouterse overthrew them on 24 December 1990, by another coup. This event became popularly known as "the telephone coup". In 1991, elections returned to Suriname where the New Front party gained 41 of the 51 parliament seats. Ronald Venetiaan (a fierce opponent of Bouterse) became president. In 1996, Jules Wijdenbosch was elected as president of Suriname on behalf of Bouterse's party, the National Democratic Party (NDP). In 2000 and 2005 Ronald Venetiaan was elected as president of Suriname. Desi Bouterse returned to power as president in 2010.

National Holiday[edit]

Monument commemorating the coup.

After becoming president of Suriname, Bouterse designated February 25, the anniversary of the day of the coup d’état, as a national holiday.[3] On the day of the coup, Bouterse's soldiers burned down the Central Police Station of Suriname. The remains of this building now form the monument of the Revolution where every year on 25 February the coup is commemorated.

References[edit]