Country Listing

Guyana Table of Contents


Chapter 5. Guyana: National Security


Member of the Guyana Defence Force

THE GUYANA DEFENCE FORCE (GDF) has been Guyana's primary defense service since independence was achieved in 1966. In 1991 the GDF, with a total active strength of only 1,700, was a unified service divided into land, sea, and air elements. The land element was by far the largest of the three with approximately 1,400 personnel. The Air Command counted 200 personnel; the Maritime Corps, the naval element, had 100 members. The GDF was supplemented by the 2,000 member National Guard Service, a reserve unit. Besides the GDF, Guyana had two paramilitary organizations: the 2,000-member Guyana People's Militia and the 1,500-member Guyana National Service.

Heavily politicized, Guyana's defense organizations were under the control of the leaders of the ruling People's National Congress (PNC). Troops were required to swear public allegiance to the PNC as well as to the nation. Guyana's racial politics affected its armed forces as well; the military was staffed almost entirely by Afro-Guyanese, the ethnic group most associated with the PNC.

The principal role of the armed forces since independence had been to assure internal security, although the GDF had seen some minor action in the course of Guyana's persistent border disputes with two of its neighbors, Venezuela and Suriname. The internal security role overlapped with the duties of the Guyana Police Force, and the two organizations often worked together to intimidate opposition political groups and the Indo-Guyanese, the country's largest ethnic group, or to tamper with electoral counts. The police and the military were unable, however, to control a rising level of violent and petty crime in Georgetown, the nation's capital.

Data as of January 1992