Magazine article New African

Guyana: Remembering Forbes Burnham. (Diaspora)

Magazine article New African

Guyana: Remembering Forbes Burnham. (Diaspora)

Article excerpt

Seventeen years ago, Africa lost one of its leading sons in the forefront of the liberation struggle when Linden F.S. Burnham, the founder president of Guyana, suddenly died. The time has come for continental Africans, writes Kamau Cush, to honour Forbes Burnham.

Under President Linden F.S. Burnham during the 1970s, Guyana was a great supporter of the African liberation struggle. Burnham was the quintessential pan-Africanist. He inspired generations of young people to commit to the principles of self-empowerment and self-awareness.

His pan-Africanism was not limited to Africa but extended to other regions of the African diaspora where Africans were asserting their humanity. In the 1995 book, POWER--The Black Power Revolution 1970 published by the University of the West Indies, Burnham was hailed as "the only important English speaking Caribbean leader who had any moral authority among radical black youth."

It was therefore not surprising when, two years ago, the Nation newspaper of Barbados conducted a poll, Burnham was the overwhelming choice of thousands who chose him as the Caribbean leader of the 20th century. He was measured against the likes of Marcus Garvey, Fidel Castro, Cheddi Jagan, Michael Manley, Eric Williams, C.L.R. James, etc--all giants in their own right.

But what was Burnham's specific role in his support of the African liberation struggle? Beginning in 1970, he, on behalf of Guyana, at the non-aligned heads-of-government conference in Lusaka, Zambia, donated US$100,000 to the African Liberation Fund. He then pledged to donate US$50,000 annually.

That decision triggered tremendous opposition within Guyana from those who were not truly committed to African liberation, including Cheddi Jagan who was then the leader of the opposition in Guyana.

Burnham's support for the African liberation struggle was not limited to the Guyanese government. The People's National Congress (PNC) which he led, also supported the struggle with monetary donations to the African Liberation Fund.

During the height of the struggle in Zimbabwe and Namibia, scores of Zimbabwean and Namibian students were provided scholarships to study in Guyana by the Guyanese Government. …

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