Guyana government orders probe into 1980 assassination of Walter Rodney

The South American country of Guyana has ordered an in-depth investigation into the 1980 assassination of Walter Rodney, a local historian and black activist who was involved in the Black Power movement in the U.S. and the Caribbean.

The Working People's Alliance, a Guyanese political party that Rodney founded in the 1970s, said Wednesday that it hopes a commission composed of three Caribbean attorneys will identify all those responsible for Rodney's death.

"We are very interested in the truth coming out," party spokesman Desmond Trotman said.

Rodney was killed in a June 1980 car bomb explosion in Guyana's capital. Sixteen years after his death, prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for former army Sgt. Gregory Smith, who fled to nearby French Guiana and was never arrested. He has since died.

Commission chairman Richard Cheltenham, of Barbados, said that at least 100 witnesses including politicians and ex-soldiers are expected to testify.

"Many of the witnesses remembered the events as though they happened yesterday, and there are several pieces of documentary evidence that allowed us to have no difficulties in finding facts and coming to conclusions," he said. "The fact that it happened 30 years or so ago need not be any bar to a full exposure of what took place."

Guyana Army Chief of Staff Brig. Gen Mark Phillips has promised the military's full cooperation.

Rodney was widely known in Third World countries, and he was best known for authoring the book "How Europe Underdeveloped Africa." He also had a lecture series named after him at Boston University.