Villagers return to site of 1986 Suriname massacre

Villagers return to site of 1986 Suriname massacre

Source: Reuters

MAROWIJNE DISTRICT, Suriname - Surviving relatives of 39 Maroon people killed in Suriname's Moiwana village massacre have returned to their birthplace for the first time since the 1986 killings for a memorial service.

Women of the N'Dyuka people, dressed in blue and white mourning wraps, wept during the ceremony held on Tuesday near three giant memorial oil lamps while Moiwana dignitaries sprinkled the soil with water to ward off evil.

The ceremony took place after Suriname agreed this week to heed an international court order to compensate victims of the 1986 massacre when soldiers killed 39 unarmed N'Dyuka Maroon people, mainly women and children.

Many families from the village fled to neighboring French Guyana after the atrocities, which were part of the army's counter-strike against Maroon guerrillas fighting a military dictatorship in the small South American country.

"I still see how they shot my little brother ... in the back. I see how they killed my aunt's baby, who they shot in the mouth. I recall how they killed my aunt," said Kenneth Solega, 31, who is living in French Guyana.

The Inter-American Court for Human Rights in Costa Rica in June told the government of the former Dutch colony to compensate the surviving relatives and punish those responsible in a ruling that made the return of the villagers possible.

A low-flying helicopter bringing two prominent N'Dyuka figures to the ceremony caused panic among the women who still associate the sound of rotor-blades with the jungle war.

"The whole world now is aware of what has happened here. May it never happen again," Parliament member and former Maroon Jungle Commando leader Ronnie Brunswijk told the gathering.

The Maroon guerrilla movement rose up in 1986 against the army headed by military dictator Desi Bouterse. Several hundred of the Maroon people were killed and thousands uprooted during a military campaign against the rebels.

The Maroon people represent about 15 percent of Suriname's population and are descendants of escaped African slaves.

Regional Development Minister Michel Felisi, representing President Ronald Venetiaan, told the gathering of several hundred the government was determined to fulfill the court's verdict within a year.

Apart from a full investigation and recovery of the remains of the victims, the state has to ensure the property rights of the members of the Moiwana community and publicly apologize in a traditional manner. The government must also pay compensation and legal costs to the 130 survivors.