Ending the armed conflict in Suriname


The mediation of a peace agreement and the deployment of a monitoring mission to verify implementation of its terms by the Organisation of American States ended the armed conflict in Suriname.

Suriname became independent from the Netherlands in 1975. Five years later, the civilian government was overthrown in a coup d’état and the country was governed by an increasingly authoritarian military junta. The collapse of constitutional rule led the American and Dutch governments to suspend all development assistance to Suriname, adding to the instability.1 In July 1986, an armed group known as the Suriname Liberation Army (SLA) launched an armed struggle to restore democracy. The fighting escalated from hit-and-run attacks to much larger offensives on towns and infrastructure, and by November 1986, the SLA had captured the second largest city in the country.2 Amidst growing domestic and international pressure, the military junta agreed to hold elections in November 1987. The incumbent government lost the election, however the military junta retained authority over the armed forces. A ceasefire was declared after the elections but collapsed within weeks.

Efforts to end the conflict began in early 1988, with representatives of the Government of Suriname and the Committee of Christian Churches holding talks with SLA leaders in January. Further negotiations were held in neighbouring French Guiana at the end of June, resulting in a ceasefire and the agreement of a framework for further dialogue. Further clashes threatened to derail the peace process, however, talks in French Guiana the following year culminated in the signing of a peace agreement in July 1989.3 The gradual progress towards peace was disrupted in December 1990, when the military seized power in another coup d’état. The Organisation of American States (OAS) and the governments of the USA, Netherlands, and France condemned the development and called for the restoration of constitutional rule, pressuring the military junta to again hold elections. In May 1991, a new government came to power and passed laws banning military involvement in politics. In 1992, the OAS hosted negotiations between the new government and the SLA, culminating with the signing of the Lelydorp Accord on 1 August 1992.4 The Accord ended the conflict, invited the OAS to monitor the Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration process, offered an amnesty to combatants, and provided for the integration of some SLA troops into the Surinamese security forces. OAS personnel remained in Suriname until 1994, monitoring compliance, collecting weapons, and removing land mines.5

1 Human Rights Watch. Suriname. (HRW, 1992) Available at: https://www.hrw.org/reports/1992/WR92/AMW2-07.htm (Accessed 06/12/2020)

2 UCDP. Suriname: Government. (UCDP, 2020) Available at: https://ucdp.uu.se/conflict/357 (Accessed 06/12/2020)

3 Paul Verschuur. “Truce Signed in Guerrilla War in Suriname.” AP News. (1989) Available at: https://apnews.com/article/8f70a750b8c992390baf03042aae2932 (Accessed 06/12/2020)

4 UCDP. Suriname: Government.

5 Monica Herz. “Does the Organisation of American States Matter?” Crisis States Working Papers Series, No. 2. (2008) p.22

Start Year


End Year




UN Regional Group

Latin America and the Caribbean

Type of Conflict

Vertical (state-based) intrastate conflict with foreign involvement

Type of Initiative

Mediation of a peace agreement, Monitoring, observation, political, and verification missions

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The Organisation of American States




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