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Jerry John Rawlings (born Jeremiah Rawlings John 22 June 1947 in Accramarker, Gold Coast) is a former military dictator who ruled Ghana for nearly 19 years. He has enjoyed a love affair with the West who have overlooked his many flaws because he embraced democracy in the later part of his reign. He was twice the head of state of Ghana and was the 1st President of the Fourth Republic. He first appeared on the Ghanaianmarker political scene on 15 May 1979 when he led a group of junior officers in the Ghana Air Force in a mutiny that resulted in his arrest and imprisonment. He was court-martialled in public and sentenced to death. Due to his display of patriotism in his defense speeches, he was widely seen across the country as a true son of Ghana, and was nicknamed Junior Jesus for his initials "JJ". Before he could be executed, another group of junior officers within the Ghana Army sprung Rawlings out and demanded that he lead the 4 June uprising that had engulfed the nation. Major Boakye-Djan did not lead the young officers and ranks who broke JJ out of jail. The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) was formed after an armed clash between government forces and those armed forces on the side of the uprising. lives were lost sadly on both sides. Before 15 May, Ghana was already far into the process of returning to civilian rule and general elections were already scheduled, however the relationship between the corrupt military government and the civilian politicians was too close. after the AFRC took over and conducted what they termed 'a housecleaning exersicee', retrieved large sums of stolen government money into government coffers, stabilised inflation, the AFRC went ahead to conduct an election and handed over power to Dr. Hilla Limann who won the popular vote in the second round of the general election in the election to establish the Third Republic. Less than two years later, Dr. Limann's civilian and constitutional government was overthrown again by Jerry Rawlings on 31 December, 1981 because the institutionalised corruption that the 4 June uprising stood up against had began again. He then installed the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) government which was a government of participatory democracy. In effect, Rawlings demystified governance in Ghana, preaching to people that they have a right to demand accountability from their leaders who are there to serve the people.

In the early 1990s internal pressures led by a group identified with the Danquah-Busia tradition coupled with external pressures from Ghana's development partners forced the PNDC government to adopt constitutional rule. Rawlings on many platforms professed his hatred for multiparty democracy nevertheless, a National Commission on Democracy was established. He retired from the Armed Forces, set up the National Democratic Congress. this party, with Rawlings as its candidate, won 58.3 % votes in the 1992 elections which the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) claimed was a stolen verdict although international observers judged the elections "largely free and fair". Rawlings won the 1996 election as well.

After two terms in office, barred by the constitution from standing in any election, he endorse his vice-president John Atta Mills as presidential candidate in 2000. the NDC with Mills as candidate however lost the elections to the NPP Kufour.

Rawlings is married to Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings and has four children: three girls and a boy. He is the joint recipient of the 1993 World Hunger Award.


Rawlings was born to the Scottishmarker pharmacist James Ramsay John and his Ghanaian Ewe mistress, Victoria Agbotui. His father had migrated to the then Gold Coast in 1935 with his wife Mary to work for the United Africa Company (UAC). In 1941 he started an affair with Madam Agbotui, then a caterer at the State House in Ghana. The relationship ended in 1947, the same year that Rawlings was born. James John refused to acknowledge Rawlings as his son, however before his death he left a message of apology- to his- with his scottish family.

In order not to let her son lose his Scottish heritage, his mother named him after his father as Jeremiah Rawlings John. This name was later changed to Jerry John Rawlings following a clerical error when the young Rawlings signed up at the Royal Air Force. His mother hoped for a career as a medical doctor for her son and enrolled him at the prestigious Achimota Schoolmarker. he completed his O level education in 1966.

He consequently enlisted as a Flight Cadet in the Ghana Air Force in August 1967, and was subsequently selected for officer cadet training at the Ghana Military Academy and Training School, Teshiemarker, in Accra. the Ghana Flying school at the time had instructors from the RAF, as well as very qualified Ghanaian instructors.

Military career

In March, 1968, he was posted to Takoradimarker in the Western Regionmarker to continue his studies. He graduated in January 1969, and was commissioned a Pilot Officer, winning the coveted "Speed Bird Trophy" as the best cadet in flying and airmanship. He earned the rank of Flight Lieutenant in April 1978.

During his service with the Ghanaian Air Force, Rawlings perceived a deterioration of discipline and morale, reflecting the corruption of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) at that time. He read widely and discussed social and political ideas with a growing circle of like-minded friends and colleagues.

On 28 May 1979, Rawlings, together with six others who were arrested earlier, appeared before a General Court Martial in Accra, charged with leading a mutiny of junior officers and enlisted men of the Ghanaian Armed Forces on 15 May 1979. There was strong public reaction, especially after his statement had been read in court, explaining the social injustices that had prompted him to act . The ranks of the Armed Forces, in particular, expressed deep sympathy with his stated aims.

Military coup

When he was scheduled for another court appearance on 4 June 1979, Rawlings was sprung from custody. With the support of both the military and civilians, he led the uprising that ousted the Supreme Military Council from office and brought the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) to power. On the night of 4 June, lives were lost on both the forces fighting against the military government and those fighting on the side of the uprising. however, the uprising, with respect to those who gave their lives defending the country, was not as bloody as critics claim it was because the majority of ranks decided not to fight each other on the orders of the top brass.

In a sad twist of irony The AFRC who came to power through a military coup, executed all the previous leaders who came to power via military coup - Ignatius Kutu Acheamphong, Akwasi Afrifa, and Fred Akuffo were executed. Five other generals—Joy Amedume, Yaw Boakye, Roger Felli, Kotei, and kotoka—were also put to death.

There was also the brutal torture and killings of Supreme Court Justices Kwadjo Agyei Akyeampong, Frederick Sarkodie, and Cecilia Koranteng Addo, as well as military officers, Major Sam Acquah, and Major Dasana Nantogmah.

The AFRC, under the chairmanship of Rawlings, carried out a much wider "house-cleaning exercise" aimed at purging the armed forces and society at large of corruption. It is worth noting that he has become one of the richest men in Ghana if not Africa.

Meanwhile, following a programme already set in motion before the June 4 uprising, the ruling People's National Party (PNP), under President Hilla Limann.

Limann's administration was cut short on 31 December 1981, when Rawlings deposed him in another coup. A Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), composed of both civilian and military members, was established with Rawlings as Chairman. In his second tenure in power, Rawlings's policies became more centrist, and he began to advocate free-market reforms.

Democratic President

Citizens began demanding a more democratic form of government as the 1990s progressed. Rawlings answered this demand by forming a National Commission for Democracy (NCD), empowered to hold regional debates and formulate some suggestions for a transition to multi-party democracy. Although opposition groups complained that the NCD was too closely associated with the PNDC, the commission continued its work through 1991. In March of that year the NCD released a report recommending the election of an executive president, the establishment of a national assembly, and the creation of a prime minister post. The PNDC accepted the report, and the following year it was approved in a national referendum. Political parties were legalised—with the provision that none could use names that had been used before—and a timetable was set for presidential and parliamentary elections.

Rawlings retired from the Ghanaian Armed Forces on 14 September 1992.

When presidential elections were held in 1992, Rawlings stood as the candidate for the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the successor party to the PNDC. Although his opponents were given access to television and newspaper coverage—and limits to the freedom of the press had been lifted—no single candidate could match the popularity of the sitting head of state. Election returns on 3 November 1992 revealed that Rawlings had won 58.3 percent of the vote, for a landslide victory. Foreign observers declared the voting to be "free and fair."

Almost immediately, the leaders of the country's opposition parties claimed that the presidential election was not fair, and that widespread abuses had occurred. The leaders encouraged their followers to boycott subsequent parliamentary elections, with the result being that NDC candidates won 189 of 200 seats in the new parliament. Rawlings was therefore accorded a four-year term backed by an elected assembly of supporters for his platform. Answering questions of polling place irregularities, he promised to initiate a new voter registration program to be completed in time for elections in four years.

In 1993, President Rawlings headed the Ghana delegation which participated in the first Tokyo International Conference on African Development.

Rawlings and the NDC were elected in 1992 and 1996. Per constitutional mandate, Rawlings's term of office ended in 2001; he retired in 2001 and was succeeded by John Kufuor, his main opponent in the 1996 elections. Kufuor succeeded in defeating Rawlings's vice-president John Atta-Mills in the 2000 vote. In 2004, Mills conceded to Kufuor in spite of the alleged vote-rigging by Rawlings and other NDC officials. Foreign observers however declared the elections as free and fair. Kufuor ran for another four years with the mandate of the people of Ghana.

Flt.Lt Rawlings always had the passion to fly and while in the Air Force, he exhibited extraordinary talents. in that, he could fly the helicopter, the jet fighters, propeller planes and all other types of planes that the Ghana Air Force had at the time.

Achievements as President

Achieved political and economic stability in a region rife with conflicts (for example Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Togo, Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone).

Created 110 districts through non-partisan district level elections. Education, infrastructure developments and healthcare all devolved to the district level. Annual government subvention by law goes to the district — unthinkable in many other African countries.Absorbed over one million Ghanaians living in Nigeria who were expelled. Housed them at El -Wak stadium in 1983 and then moved them to their family homes. Most other economies, including even advanced ones such as Germany saw their economies suffer when they reunified with integrated citizens (for example German reunification) . Turned this crisis into a symbol of national unity.

Built first ever memorials to Kwame Nkrumah and W.E.B. DuBois.

Followed an independent foreign policy

Returned Ghana to democratic rule in 1992, after a public referendum by a wide majority approved a new constitution. Neither Nigeria, Iraq, Togo, nor Côte d'Ivoire were able to achieve this feat (in Nigeria two governments were overthrown during this period).

Passed the value added tax (VATR of 10%) to secure government revenue base, which today funds most government public expenditures.

Passed the Ghana Educational Trust Fund (GET Fund) that is today educating millions of Ghanaians.

First Ghanaian President in 20 years to be received on a state visit of the US.

Exapanded electricity to Northern parts of Ghana - hitherto ignored by ruling elites since 1957.

Both Bill Clinton and Queen Elizabeth II visited Ghana during Rawlings tenure to highlight the successes of the country.

The NDC’s agricultural policy and programme 1994-2000 resulted in the recognition of Ghana’s Food Production Index of 148% for 1995-1997 as “the third highest achievement in the record after Jordan (157%) and China (156%) in the World Bank’s “1999-2000 Development Report.”

Contributed immensely towards dispute resolution and peace keeping in several of the unstable countries in the West African sub-region and beyond.

Started the Expansion Project and the Renovation of the 37 Military Hospital.

In the urban road sector, reconstructed the entire Kumasi city roads, Sekondi-Takoradi city roads and Accra city roads. In Accra, these included the six-lane dual carriage road leading to the four-lane dual carriage road from the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange to the Independence Avenue.

Constructed the Kumasi-Sunyani asphalt road; the Kintampo-Tamale-Bolgatanga-Paga Faso asphalt road; and the double surfacing bitumen Bibiani-Awaso-Sefwi Wiawso road.

Established the University for Development Studies, and used his Hunger Award Prize Money to buy books for the University's Library.

He upgraded the Winneba Advanced Teacher Training College into a full-fledged public University of Education, Winneba, thus adding two new public Universities to the three that had existed since independence.

Introduced the policy of allowing the establishment of private tertiary institutions, including Universities, to supplement the public sector Universities. Implemented the policy of one region, one Polytechnic.

Made sure that every district had at least two senior secondary schools.

Constructed the modern regional hospitals at Cape Coast, Ho and Sunyani. Numerous modern district hospitals were constructed in the district capitals all over the country.

Potable water was provided for so many communities that at the time he was leaving office, guinea worm infestation had virtually been eradicated from Ghana.

The housing sector, the sprawling housing estates at Adenta, Sakumono, Lashibi, and on the Spintex Road all in Accra and the SSNIT Estates all over the country were constructed during His Era.

There was the smooth, historic transfer of power from the NDC to the NPP in 2001.

The creation of District Assemblies’ Common Fund, the GetFund, the Road Fund, the EDIF and the Energy FundGhana’s huge reputation in international peace keeping, coupled with the ability of H. E JJ Rawlings to get the illustrious son of Ghana, Kofi Annan, elected as the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Post-Presidency Activities

Rawlings later played a key role as a check on the NPP government during his time as the then erstwhile president. He has given numerous lectures in universities around the world, including a recent lecture in Oxford University titled 'Security and Democracy in Africa.'

See also


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