Former president Ghana, Jerry John Rawlings [photo: DW]
Nov, 13th 2020 – Ghana’s former President Jerry John Rawlings has died at the age of 73. He died in hospital in the capital, Accra, after a short illness. A week of national mourning has been announced in Ghana for the country’s longest-serving leader, who oversaw the transition to multiparty elections in what is now one of Africa’s most stable democracies. He stepped down in 2001 after serving two terms but continued to wield a strong influence in the country.
African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said “Africa has lost a stalwart of Pan-Africanism and a charismatic continental statesman”. While Liberian President George Weah said “Ghana, Liberia and Africa will miss a great leader”
President Nana Akufo-Addo confirmed that Rawlings died on Thursday morning at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in the capital of Accra. He said, “A great tree has fallen, and Ghana is poorer for this loss.” He also ordered that for the next seven mourning days, flags around the country be lowered to half-mast in his honor.
Presidential candidate for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) John Mahama, has announced that he is suspending campaigning for next month’s elections.
Rawlings was the son to a Scottish farmer and a Ghanaian mother. He entered the Ghana air Force graduating in 1969, then later on as a senior officer in the air force overthrowing a military government and handing over the power to a civilian leader. He oversaw the execution of several former heads of state and army generals for corruption but later on expressed regret oveer the killings.
At the time, Rawlings said, “I am still aware that we in Ghana do not like bloodshed, I personally do not like it. I mean, I’d rather, let’s say, confiscate a man’s wealth and bring him down to the level to which he’s brought us just to give him a taste of what life has been, what he’s done to us.“
He also led a second coup in 1981 and was the head of military junta until multiparty elections were introduced in 1992, when he was first elected president. He then stepped down in 2001 after serving two terms but then continued to wield a strong influence in the country. He introduced a long period of political stability after a series of coups in 1960s and 1970s.