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History of Military Conflicts/Wars in Guyana

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Published: 13th of May, 2024 by Patrick Carpen

Last updated: May 13, 2024 at 19:43 pm

To begin with, the Indigenous peoples regularly carried out tribal warfare long before the Europeans arrived. Upon arrival, the Europeans (Dutch first) subdued or pushed back the Indigenous peoples using superior weaponry and military tactics. They were also greater in number. Over time, the indigenous peoples of Guyana grew tamer and stopped fighting altogether. Currently, they are a most united group celebrating Indigenous Heritage Month each September.

The French waged a war and conquered several territories from the Dutch in what was then Dutch Guiana. French names like Mon Repos, Chateau Margot, and Versailles, reflect French colonial presence in Guyana.

The British invaded and pushed back both French and Dutch. The French fled to what is now French Guiana and the Dutch to Suriname.

There were also several military conflicts between colonial rulers and African slaves, the most famous being the 1763 Berbice Slave Uprising.

The British had a military standoff with the Portuguese over territory bordering Guyana and Brazil. This was resolved without a war.

The British also had military confrontation with Venezuela over territory bordering Guyana and Venezuela. This was resolved peacefully via the 1899 Paris Award.

There was an internal conflict during the 1960s termed the 1964 riots whereby violence erupted between Indians and Africans in Guyana. Although there was bloodshed, the fighting was not prolonged, widespread, or decisive enough to have been classified as a civil war.

The Rupununi Uprising of 1969 was a military uprising of residents of the Rupununi, mostly Amerindians and Amerindians mixed with white and Spanish against government forces. The objective appeared to have been to clear government control of the area and keeping the territory under private control. Reportedly, the fight was instigated by cattle ranchers from England and the United States, referred to by in some historical literature as the Melville/Hart clan. The rebels attacked the Lethem Police Station killing a number officers. They also took several persons captive. The rebel fighters fled to neighboring Venezuela via Brazil after GDF landed a plane of soldiers in the Rupununi. Although it involved government versus rebel groups, this conflict was not wide, prolonged, or decisive enough to have been classified as a civil war.

Guyana shares a border dispute with neighboring Suriname for the Tigri Region which Suriname claims. In the early 2000s, the Surinamese military used gunboats to chase out a Canadian oil company (CGX) drilling for oil in the disputed waters on behalf of Guyana. Guyana did not respond militarily to the Surinamese aggression, opting instead to let the matter rest until the dispute can be settled using legally binding methods.

For decades, Guyana shared a border controversy with Venezuela after Venezuela in 1944 raised issues with the 1899 Paris Award claiming that it was fraudulent. This controversy led to several military standoffs but no exchange of fire between the armed forces of the two countries as of the time of this article (last updated May 2024). However, in December 2023, after Nicolas Maduro called a referendum aimed at annexing the Essequibo, a helicopter piloted by famous GDF pilot, Captain Michael Charles, went down near to the border killing Charles and several others while surveying Venezuelan military activities close to the border. Although the crash was caused by human error and not enemy fire, the military personnel were killed while serving in the line of defense. Presently the Maduro Regime has issued several warnings that an invasion of the Essequibo might be coming.

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