Guyana: The Walter Rodney Murder Mystery 40 Years Later

New National Security Archive documents shed further light on the murder in 1980 of Dr. Walter Rodney, a popular opposition figure in Guyana known as much for his sharp critiques of capitalism as his disapproval of the U.S.-backed government of Prime Minister Forbes Burnham.

On August 9, 2021, the Guyana’s National Assembly voted to adopt “Resolution No. 23 of 2021 …” to implement the 2016 findings of “The Commission of Inquiry Appointed to Enquire and Report on the Circumstances Surrounding the Death in An Explosion of the Late Dr. Walter Rodney on Thirteenth Day of June, One Thousand, Nine Hundred and Eighty at Georgetown.” [1] The Commission found that Rodney “could only have been killed in what we find to be a State organized assassination with the knowledge of Prime Minister Burnham.” Moreover, the Commission had “no hesitation in holding that Gregory Smith was responsible for Dr. Walter Rodney’s death on 13 June 1980 and that in so doing he was acting as an agent of the State having been aided and abetted so to do.”

The National Assembly resolution was the result of a persistent campaign by Guyana’s Working People’s Alliance (WPA) on behalf of Rodney and his family. It waged a long campaign in the media,[2] including citing documents posted by the National Security Archive, such as the findings of the U.S. Embassy that there was a “strong ‘circumstantial case’ that the PNC-led government had assassinated Rodney. The WPA campaign had a decisive impact on the actions taken by the National Assembly.

More than four decades after the murder of Guyanese scholar-political activist Dr. Walter Rodney on June 13, 1980, Guyana’s National Assembly accepted the findings of a major commission of inquiry into the assassination. It concluded that the government of then-Prime Minister Forbes Burnham had organized the murder, which was perpetrated by an active-duty sergeant in the Guyana Defense Force, Gregory Smith.

To mark these findings and to reacquaint readers with key documents about Rodney’s final months, the National Security Archive has updated its 2020 posting with a new document and information about the National Assembly’s actions.

The Rodney case is not over, however. The Rodney family is seeking to change the characterization of his killing in his death certificate from misadventure to assassination. Meanwhile, Guyana’s National Archives have been renamed the Walter Rodney National Archives and his grave and the site where he was killed are slated to become national monuments.

Read on at the National Security Archive website

Photo Source: Guyana Chronicle

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