1980 Surinamese coup d'état

1980 Surinamese coup d'état
Suriname-CIA WFB Map.png
Map of Suriname.
Date 25 February 1980
Location 5°51′8″N 55°12′14″W / 5.85222°N 55.20389°W / 5.85222; -55.20389Coordinates: 5°51′8″N 55°12′14″W / 5.85222°N 55.20389°W / 5.85222; -55.20389

Coup attempt succeeds.

Government of Suriname

Surinamese Armed Forces

Commanders and leaders
Johan Ferrier
Henck Arron
Dési Bouterse
1980 Surinamese coup d'état is located in Suriname
1980 Surinamese coup d'état
Nexus of coup in Paramaribo
Bouterse as the Commander of the Armed Forces in 1985.

The 1980 Surinamese coup d'état, usually referred to as the Sergeants' Coup (Dutch: De Sergeantencoup), was a military coup in Suriname which occurred on 25 February 1980, when a group of 16 sergeants (Dutch: groep van zestien, lit.'group of sixteen') of the Surinamese Armed Forces (SKM) led by Dési 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 the country from 1980 until 1991. The dictatorship featured the presence of an evening curfew, the lack of freedom of press, a ban on political parties (from 1985), a restriction on the freedom of assembly, a high level of government corruption and the summary executions of political opponents.[2]


The Netherlands granted Suriname independence on 25 November 1975.[3] It was marked by social unrest, economic depression, and rumors of corruption.[4] The hastily-created Suriname National Army had many non-commissioned officers who tried to unionize[5] and complained about corruption[3] and poor pay.[5] Prime Minister Henck Arron refused to recognise them and arrested the ringleaders, who were to go to trial on 26 February 1980.[6] Elections were also scheduled for March 1980.[5]


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. 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

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, and the journalist 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 Surinamese Interior War, which was fought between the soldiers of Bouterse and the Jungle Commando led by Ronnie Brunswijk.

Transition to democratic rule

Elections were held in 1987 and a new constitution was adopted, which allowed Bouterse to remain in charge of the army. Dissatisfied with the government, Bouterse overthrew them on 24 December 1990 during another coup. The event became popularly known as "the telephone coup."

In 1991, elections returned to Suriname, and 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. Dési Bouterse returned to power as president in 2010.

National holiday

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.[7] On the day of the coup, Bouterse's soldiers burned down the Central Police Station of Suriname. The remains of the building now form the Monument of the Revolution, and every year on 25 February, the coup is commemorated there.


  1. ^ "The World Factbook". cia.gov. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  2. ^ "BBC News - Timeline: Suriname". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Henck Arron (1936-2000)". Historiek (in Dutch). Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  4. ^ "Wat zijn de Decembermoorden". NPO Focus (in Dutch). Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  5. ^ a b c "The Kingdom Of The Netherlands In The Caribbean. Suriname 1954 – 2004: Kroniek van een illusie". Rozenberg Quarterly (in Dutch). Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  6. ^ Caribbean Review (1980). "The Year of the Sergeants". University of Florida. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  7. ^ "The Cutting Edge". thecuttingedgenews.com. Retrieved 13 August 2015.

External links