Ghana’s former President, Jerry Rawlings, died yesterday morning from complications of COVID-19. The ex-president died at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, capital of Ghana, at the age of 73. Rawlings, a charismatic figure, led two coups, first in 1979, before twice being elected president in a multiparty polls.
“A great tree has fallen and Ghana is poorer for this loss,” President Akufo- Addo said in a statement on Rawlings’ death. In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, President Muhammadu Buhari said he believed the passion, discipline and moral strength that the former Ghanaian leader employed to reposition his country over many years continue to reverberate across the continent and beyond.
A week of national mourning has been announced in Ghana and all national flags have been directed to fly at half-mast for the next seven days in honour of the memory of the former president. President Akufo-Addo also announced the suspension of his political campaigns for seven days ahead of the December 7 general election in the country. Similarly, John Mahama, leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) party, founded by Rawlings, said in a Twitter message he had suspended campaign for the December 7 presidential election.
Liberian President, George Weah, said: “Ghana, Liberia and Africa will miss a great leader. “Liberia remembers his immense contribution to the attainment and sustainment of peace during the dark days of our own history,” he added in a tweet.
The president of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, said Ghana has lost a patriot who put the country back on the path of growth. Nigeria’s Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, said Rawlings still stood for African unity and renaissance, even after he left office in 2001. Also, Chief Whip of the Senate, Dr. Orji Kalu, in his tribute, said: “The demise of former President Rawlings is a big blow, not only to Ghana, but Africa in general.
“The former Ghanaian leader played vital roles in the sustenance of democracy in Africa. He was a bold, courageous and pragmatic leader, who served Ghana meritoriously in the military and civilian regimes.
“The late former president, will be remembered for his invaluable contributions to the social, economic and political development of the African continent.” Born in Accra to an Ewe mother and a Scottish father, Jerry Rawlings, a former lieutenant in the Ghanaian Air Force, participated in his first military coup in May 1979. He led Ghana from 1981 to 2001.
He oversaw the execution of several former heads of state and army generals for corruption, but later expressed regrets about the killings. The execution by firing squad of Supreme Court judges also left a stain on his legacy. He began his time in power as a committed socialist, but later introduced free-market reforms. He remains the single longestserving president in Ghana’s history till date. He came to global prominence in 1979 when, as an army lieutenant, he ousted General Frederick Akuffo as president. But he relinquished power soon after, handing over to civilian rule, but orchestrated another coup two years later, citing corruption and weak leadership.
From 1981 to 1993, Rawlings ruled as chairman of a joint military-civilian government. He was elected president in 1992 under a new constitution, fully assuming the role the following year.