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Contributions Towards the Resolution of Conflict in Guyana

Published by Peepal Tree Press

ISBN: 9781900715652

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From 1955 onwards, when the anti-colonial movement split into competing ethnic sections, conflict between African and Indian Guyanese has held Guyana in a deadlock which has undermined all attempts at social and economic development. At its height exploding into civil war in the 1960s, the constant state of tension has led to rigged elections, authoritarian government, economic collapse and driven hundreds of thousands of Guyanese to emigrate. Even in the present, when for the first time for decades, free and fair elections can be held, winning and losing further divides the nation.

Judaman Seecoomar’s book offers an analysis of how Guyana has arrived at this impasse and suggests a process that could lead out of it. He identifies a history of authoritarian government where those who control the state (whether colonial governments in the past, those who seized power through rigged elections, or those who gained it by virtue of having the support of the ethnic majority), have responded to Guyana’s cultural pluralism by suppressing or ignoring the interests of the minority. He argues that the failure to satisfy the human needs of all Guyana’s ethnic groups is the root cause of conflict and only their satisfaction offers a means of harnessing all the nation’s energies for development. He identifies the crucial needs as being those that relate to security, the recognition of cultural identity, participation in decision-making and the fair distribution of social rewards.

The book looks to the developing practice of conflict resolution through strategies of collaborative problem solving. It argues that such a process would offer Guyana the means of finding constitutional and institutional arrangements acceptable to all ethnic groups. It provides both an account of the theoretical frameworks for such an approach and case studies of conflict resolution in action in Northern Ireland and in the Oslo talks between Israelis and Palestinians. It documents the initial attempts by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to broker talks between the main Guyanese political parties.

In a world where internal conflict in multi-ethnic states is the major source of regional instability, this is a timely book.

Judaman Seecoomar was born July 15 1932; he died March 26 2006. He had recently completed a PhD on inter-racial conflict in Guyana.
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