Ghana’s longest serving president Jerry Rawlings has passed on. He was aged 73.
Rawlings is remembered as a charismatic military dictator who used ruthless means including killing and imprisoning corrupt leaders.
Rawlings trained and graduated a flight leutenant in 1969. He served as a military pilot until 1979 when he and a group of soldiers staged an unsuccessful coup to oust the military government of Gen. Fred Akuffo.
Following the unsuccessful coup Rawlings and his and his fellow plotters were sentenced to death by a court martial.
Widespread discontent in military ranks forced soldiers to release Rawlings from prison and made him the leader of a second coup that succeeded in overthrowing He. Akuffo.
The second half of 1979 was characterized with dramatic events as Rawlings oversaw the execution of three former presidents of Ghana, several military leaders and an estimated 300 Ghanaians who were accused of corruption, but which others saw as revenge killings.
After killing his enemies, dubbed by some as house cleaning, Rawlings handed power to President Hilla Limann, whose People’s National Party (PNP) had the support of Nkrumah’s followers.
Two years later Rawlings ousted President Hilla Limann in a second coup d’etat on 31 December 1981, claiming that civilian rule was weak and had caused widespread food shortages.
He started this episode of his leadership by actively participating in social development projects such as rail construction, food cultivation to inspire his people to rise from poverty.
He served as a military leader until 1992 when he organized multiparty elections which he won and ruled twice as elected president.
He endorsed his vice President John Atta Mills as his successor in the elections of 2000. But Mills lost to Opposition’s John Kuffor. Kuffor’s ascendancy to power, marked Ghana’s historic democratic transfer of power since independence in 1957.
Mills however managed to return to government in an election in 2009 after two terms.