Jerry Rawlings

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Jerry John Rawlings
Jerry Rawlings visits AMISOM 02 (6874167713) (cropped).jpg
President of Ghana
(1st President of the 4th Republic)
In office
7 January 1993 7 January 2001
Vice President Kow Nkensen Arkaah (1993–1997)
John Atta Mills (1997–2001)
Preceded by Himself
Succeeded by John Agyekum Kufuor
Head of State of Ghana
In office
31 December 1981 7 January 1993
Vice PresidentNone
Preceded by Hilla Limann
Head of State of Ghana
In office
4 June 1979 24 September 1979
Preceded by General Fred Akuffo
Succeeded by Hilla Limann
Personal details
Born (1947-06-22) 22 June 1947 (age 72)
Accra, Gold Coast (now Ghana)
Political partymilitary – AFRC (1979)
military – PNDC (1981–93)
Multi-Party Democracy – NDC (1993–2001)
Spouse(s) Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings
ProfessionFighter pilot
Awards UDS Honorary Award
Military service
AllegianceFlag of Ghana.svg  Ghana
Branch/service Ghana Air Force
Years of service1968–92
Rank Flight Lieutenant

Jerry John Rawlings (born 22 June 1947) [1] is a former Ghanaian military leader and politician who ruled the country from 1981 to 2001 and also for a brief period in 1979. He led a military junta until 1992 and then served two terms as the democratically elected President of Ghana. [2]

A military junta is a government led by a committee of military leaders. The term junta comes from Spanish and Portuguese and means committee, specifically a board of directors. Sometimes it becomes a military dictatorship, though the terms are not synonymous.

President of Ghana head of state and head of government of Ghana

The President of the Republic of Ghana is the elected head of state and head of government of Ghana, as well as Commander-in-Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces. The current President of Ghana is Nana Akufo-Addo, who won the 2016 presidential election against the incumbent, John Dramani Mahama, by a margin of 9.45%. Nana Akufo-Addo was sworn into office on 7 January 2017.


Rawlings initially came to power in Ghana as a flight lieutenant of the Ghana Air Force following a coup d'état in 1979 and, after initially handing power over to a civilian government, took back control of the country on 31 December 1981 as the Chairman of the Provisional National Defence Council. In 1992, Rawlings resigned from the military, founded the National Democratic Congress, and became the first President of the Fourth Republic. He was re-elected in 1996 for four more years. [3] After two terms in office, the limit according to the Ghanaian Constitution, Rawlings endorsed his vice-president John Atta Mills as presidential candidate in 2000. He currently serves as the African Union envoy to Somalia.

Ghana Republic in West Africa

Ghana, officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located along the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean, in the subregion of West Africa. Spanning a land mass of 238,535 km2 (92,099 sq mi), Ghana is bordered by the Ivory Coast in the west, Burkina Faso in the north, Togo in the east and the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean in the south. Ghana means "Warrior King" in the Soninke language.

Flight Lieutenant is a junior commissioned rank in air forces that use the Royal Air Force (RAF) system of ranks, especially in Commonwealth countries. It has a NATO rank code of OF-2. Flight lieutenant is abbreviated as Flt Lt in the Indian Air Force (IAF) and RAF, and as FLTLT in the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) and has sometimes also been abbreviated as F/L in many services; however, it has never been correctly abbreviated as "lieutenant". A flight lieutenant ranks above flying officer and below a squadron leader and is sometimes used as an English language translation of a similar rank in non-English-speaking countries.

Ghana Air Force Air warfare branch of Ghanas military

The Ghana Air Force (GHF) is the aerial warfare organizational military branch of the Ghanaian Armed Forces (GAF). The GHF, along with the Ghanaian army (GA) and Ghanaian navy (GN), make up the Ghanaian Armed Forces (GAF) which are controlled by the Ghanaian Ministry of Defence (MoD).


Jerry John Rawlings was born in June 1947 in Accra, Gold Coast, to Victoria Agbotui and James Ramsey John, a chemist from Castle Douglas in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland. James Ramsey John was married in England to someone else and his descendants now live in Newcastle and London. Rawlings attended Achimota School. Rawlings' family had little influence in his ideology, as the tribes his family belonged to, the Nzema and the Ewe, were sub-groups of minimal importance, and he was the only child born to his mother. This lack of a prominent lineage proved a political advantage for Rawlings, as it freed him from family and tribal pressures. [4] Rawlings is married to Nana Konadu Agyeman, who he met while at Achimota College. They have three daughters: Ezanetor Rawlings, Yaa Asantewaa Rawlings, Amina Rawlings; and one son, Kimathi Rawlings. [5] [ citation needed ]

Accra Capital city in Ghana

Accra is the capital and largest city of Ghana, covering an area of 225.67 km2 (87.13 sq mi) with an estimated urban population of 2.27 million as of 2012. It is organized into 12 local government districts – 11 municipal districts and the Accra Metropolitan District, which is the only district within the capital to be granted city status. "Accra" usually refers to the Accra Metropolitan Area, which serves as the capital of Ghana, while the district which is within the jurisdiction of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly is distinguished from the rest of the capital as the "City of Accra". In common usage, however, the terms "Accra" and "City of Accra" are used interchangeably.

Gold Coast (British colony) former British colony from 1867 until 1957, now Ghana

The Gold Coast was a British colony on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa from 1867 to its independence as the nation of Ghana in 1957.

Castle Douglas town in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

Castle Douglas is a town in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. It lies in the lieutenancy area of Kirkcudbrightshire, in the eastern part of Galloway, between the towns of Dalbeattie and Gatehouse of Fleet. It is in the ecclesiastical parish of Kelton.

Education and military career

Rawlings finished his secondary education at Achimota College in 1967 and had no education outside of Ghana. [6] He joined the Ghana Air Force shortly afterwards. In March 1968, he was posted to Takoradi, in Ghana's Western Region, to continue his studies. He graduated in January 1969, and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer, winning the coveted "Speed Bird Trophy" as the best cadet in flying the Su-7 ground attack supersonic jet aircraft. He earned the rank of Flight Lieutenant in April 1978. During his service with the Ghana Air Force, Rawlings perceived a deterioration in discipline and morale due to corruption in the Supreme Military Council (SMC). As promotion brought him into contact with the privileged classes and their social values, his view of the injustices in society hardened. He was thus regarded with some unease by the SMC. After the 1979 coup, he involved himself with the student community of the University of Ghana, where he developed a more leftist ideology through reading and discussion of social and political ideas. [7]

Pilot officer is the lowest commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force and the air forces of many other Commonwealth countries. It ranks immediately below flying officer.

Supreme Military Council (Ghana)

The Supreme Military Council (SMC) was the ruling government of Ghana from October 9, 1972 to June 4, 1979. Its chairman was Colonel I.K. Acheampong. He was also the Head of state of Ghana due to his chairmanship.

University of Ghana Ghanaian public university

The University of Ghana is the oldest and largest of the thirteen Ghanaian public universities. It was founded in 1948, in the British colony of the Gold Coast, as the University College of the Gold Coast, and was originally an affiliate college of the University of London, which supervised its academic programmes and awarded degrees. It gained full university status in 1961, and now has nearly 40,000 students. The original emphasis was on the liberal arts, social sciences, law, basic science, agriculture and medicine. However, as part of a national educational reform program, the university's curriculum was expanded to provide more technology-based and vocational courses as well as postgraduate training.

1979 coup and purges

Rawlings grew discontent with Acheampong's government, which had come to power through a successful coup in January 1972. [4] Acheampong was not only accused of corruption, but also of maintaining Ghana's dependency on pre-colonial powers that led to economic decline and impoverishment. [4]

Rawlings was part of the Free Africa Movement, an underground movement of military officers who wanted to unify Africa through a series of coups. On 15 May 1979, five weeks prior to civilian elections, Rawlings and six other soldiers staged a coup against the government of General Fred Akuffo, but failed and was arrested by the Ghanaian Military. [8] He was publicly sentenced to death in a General Court Martial and imprisoned, although his statements on the social injustices that motivated his actions won him civilian sympathy. [8] While awaiting his execution, Rawlings was sprung from custody on 4 June 1979 by a group of soldiers. [9] Claiming that the government was corrupt beyond redemption and that new leadership was required for Ghana's development, he led the group in a coup to oust the Akuffo Government and Supreme Military Council. [6] Shortly after, Rawlings established and became the Chairman of a 15-member Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), primarily composed of junior officers. [10] The AFRC would later become the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC). [6] The PNDC arranged the execution by firing squad of 8 military officers, including Generals Kotei, Joy Amedume, Roger Felli, and Utuka, as well as the 3 former heads of state, Afrifa, Acheampong, and Akuffo. [4] The killings of the Supreme Court justices (Cecilia Koranteng Addo, Frederick Sarkodie, and Kwadjo Agyei Agyepong), military officers Major Sam Acquah and Major Dasana Nantogmah also occurred during this time. The executions were dramatic events in Ghana history, which had suffered from few instances of political violence. Rawlings later implemented a much wider "house-cleaning exercise" involving the killings and abduction of over 300 Ghanaians. Elections were held on time shortly after the coup, without AFRC intervention in civilian rule. Power was peacefully handed to President Hilla Limann on 24 September 1979, whose People's National Party (PNP) had the support of Nkrumah's followers. [10]

Fred Akuffo Soldier, politician, former Chief of Defence Staff and Head of state of Ghana

Lieutenant General Frederick William "Fred" Kwasi Akuffo was a soldier and politician. He was a Chief of Defence Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces and a Head of state and chairman of the ruling Supreme Military Council (SMC) in Ghana from 1978 to 1979. He came to power in a military coup, was overthrown in another military coup and executed three weeks later.

Militia generally refers to an army or other fighting force that is composed of non-professional fighters

A militia is generally an army or some other fighting organization of non-professional soldiers, citizens of a nation, or subjects of a state, who can be called upon for military service during a time of need, as opposed to a professional force of regular, full-time military personnel, or historically, members of a warrior nobility class. Generally unable to hold ground against regular forces, it is common for militias to be used for aiding regular troops by skirmishing, holding fortifications, or irregular warfare, instead of being used in offensive campaigns by themselves. Militia are often limited by local civilian laws to serve only in their home region, and to serve only for a limited time; this further reduces their use in long military campaigns.

Armed Forces Revolutionary Council, Ghana government

The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) was the government of Ghana from June 4, 1979 to September 24, 1979. It came to power in a bloody coup that removed the Supreme Military Council, another military regime, from power. The June 4 coup was preceded by an abortive attempt on May 15, 1979 when Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawlings and other ranks were arrested. Their trial only served to make them popular till they were eventually released on the morning of June 4 by young officers and noncommissioned officers inspired by Rawlings.

1982 coup and reforms

Rawlings believed the Limann regime to be unable to resolve Ghana's neocolonial economic dependency and led a second coup against Limann and indicted the entire political class on 31 December 1981. [11] In place of Limann's People's National Party, Rawlings established his party, the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) military junta as the official one-party government. [11] Although the PNDC claimed to be true representatives of the people, it lacked experience in the creation and implementation of clear economic policies. [4] Rawlings, like many of his predecessors, attributed current economic and social problems to the "trade malpractices and other anti-social activities" of a few businesspeople. [12] In December 1982, the PNDC announced its four-year economic program of establishing a state monopoly on export-import trade with the goal of eliminating corruption surrounding import licences and shift trade away from dependency on Western markets. [12] Unrealistic price controls were imposed on the market and enforced through coercive acts, especially against businesspeople. [4] This resolve to employ state control over the economy is best demonstrated by the destruction of the Makola No.1 Market. [13] The PNDC established Workers' Defence Committees (WDCs) and People's Defence Committees (PDCs) to mobilize the population to support radical changes to the economy. [12] Price controls on the sale of food were beneficial to urban workers, but placed undue burden on 70% of the rural population whose income largely depended on the prices of agricultural products. [12] Rawlings' economic policies led to an economic crisis in 1983, forcing him to undertake structural adjustment and submit himself to election to retain power. [14] Elections were held in January 1992, leading Ghana back to multiparty democracy. [11]

1992 elections

Rawlings established the National Commission on Democracy (NCD) shortly after the 1982 coup, and employed it to survey civilian opinion and make recommendations that would facilitate the process of democratic transition. In March 1991, 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 used NDC recommendations to establish a committee for the drafting of a new constitution based on past Ghanaian Constitutions, that lifted the ban on political parties in May 1992 after it was approved by referendum. [11]

On 3 November 1992, election results complied by the INEC from 200 constituencies showed that Rawlings' NDC had won 60% of the votes, and had obtained the majority needed to prevent a second round of voting. [11] More specifically, the NDC won 62% in the Brong-Ahafo region, 93% in the Volta region, and majority votes in Upper West, Upper East, Western, Northern, Central, and Greater Accra regions. [11] His opponents Professor Abu Boahen won 31% of the votes, former President Hilla Limann won 6.8%, Kwabena Darko won 2.9%, and Emmanuel Erskine won 1.7%. [11] Voter turnout was 50%. [15]

The ability of opposition parties to compete was limited by the vast advantages Rawlings possessed. Rawlings' victory was aided by the various party structures that were integrated into society during his rule, called the "organs of the revolution". [11] These structures included the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDRs), Commando Units, the 31st December Women's Organization, the 4 June movement, Peoples Militias, and Mobisquads, and operated on a system of popular control through intimidation. [11] He had a monopoly over national media, and was able to censor print and electronic media through a PNDC newspaper licensing decree, PNDC Law 221. [11] Moreover, Rawlings imposed a 20,000 cedis (about $400) cap on campaign contributions which made national publicity of opposition parties virtually impossible. Rawlings himself began campaigning before the official unbanning of political parties and had access to state resources and was able to effectively meet all monetary demands required of a successful campaign. [15] [11] Rawlings traveled across the country, initiating public-works projects and giving public employees a 60% raise prior to election day. [15] Opposition parties objected the election results, citing incidences of votes stuffing in regions Rawlings was likely to lose and rural areas with scant populations, as well as a bloated voters' register and a partisan electoral commission. [11] [15] However, the Commonwealth Observer Group, led by Sir Ellis Clarke, approved of the election as "free and fair", as there very few issues at polling stations and no major incidences of voter coercion. [11] In contrast, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) issued a report supporting claims that erroneous entries in voter registration could have affected election results. [11] The Carter Center did acknowledge minor electoral issues but did not see these problems as indictive of systematic electoral fraud. [15] Opposition parties boycotted subsequent Ghana Parliamentary and Presidential elections, and the unicameral National Assembly, of which NDC officials won 189 of 200 seats and essentially established a one-party parliament that lacked legitimacy and only had limited legislative powers. [15] After the disputed election, the PNDC was transformed into the National Democratic Congress (NDC). [16]

Policies and reforms

Rawlings established the Economic Recovery Program (ERP) suggested by the World Bank and IMF in 1982 due to the poor state of the economy after 18 months of attempting to govern it though administrative controls and mass mobilization. [15] The policies implemented caused a dramatic currency devaluation, the removal of price controls and social-service subsidies which favored farmers over urban workers, and privatization of some state-owned enterprises, and restraints on government spending. [15] Funding was generously provided by bilateral donors, reaching $800 million in 1987 and 1988, and $US900 million in 1989. [15]

Between 1992 and 1996, Rawlings eased control over the judiciary and civil society, allowing a more independent Supreme Court and the publication of independent newspapers. Opposition parties operated outside of parliament and held rallies and press conferences. [15]

1996 elections

Given the various issues with the 1992 elections, the 1996 elections were a great improvement in terms of electoral oversight. The voter registration was re-complied, with close to 9.2 million voters registering at nearly 19,000 polling stations, which the opposition had largely approved of after party agents had reviewed the lists. [15] The emphasis on transparency led Ghanaian nongovernmental organizations to create the Network of Domestic Election Observers (NEDEO), which trained nearly 4,100 local poll-watchers. [15] This organization was popular across political parties and civic groups. On the day of the election, over 60,000 candidate agents monitored close to all polling sites, and were responsible for directly reporting results to their respective party leader. [15] The parallel vote-tabulation system allowed polling sites to compare their results to the official ones released by the Electoral commission. [15] The Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) was established to discuss election preparations with all parties and the Electoral Commission, as well as establish procedures to investigate and resolve complaints. [15] [17] Presidential and parliamentary elections were held on the same day and see-through boxes were used in order to further ensure the legitimacy of the elections. [15] Despite some fears of electoral violence, the election was peaceful and had a 78% turnout rate, and was successful with only minor problems such as an inadequate supply of ink and parliamentary ballots. [15]

The two major contenders of the 1996 election were Rawlings' NDC, and John Kufuor's Great Alliance, an amalgamation of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the People's Convention Party (PCP). [15] The Great Alliance based their platform on ousting Rawlings, and attacked the incumbent government for its poor fiscal policies. However, they were unable to articulate a clear positive message of their own, or plans to change the current economic policy. As Ghana was heavily dependent on international aid, local leaders had minimal impact on the economy. The Electoral Commission reported Rawlings had won by 57%, with Kufuor obtaining 40% of the vote. Results by district were similar to those in 1992, with the opposition winning the Ashanti Region and some constituencies in Eastern and Greater Accra, and Rawlings winning in his ethnic home, the Volta, and faring well in every other region. [15] The NDC took 133 seats in the Assembly to the opposition's 66, and the NPP took 60 seats in the parliament.[ citation needed ] [18]

Post military

Per his constitutional mandate, Rawlings' term of office ended in 2001; he retired in 2001, Rawlings was succeeded by John Agyekum Kufuor, [19] his main rival and opponent in 1996.

Kufuor succeeded in defeating Rawlings's vice-president John Atta Mills in 2000. In 2004, Mills conceded to Kufuor and Kufuor ran for another four years. [20]

Post presidency

In November 2000, Rawlings was named the first International Year of Volunteers 2001 Eminent Person by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, attending various events and conferences to promote volunteerism. [21]

In October 2010, Jerry John Rawlings was named African Union Envoy to Somalia. [22]

He has given lectures at universities, including Oxford University [ citation needed ]. Jerry John Rawlings has continued his heavy support for NDC. [23] . In July 2019 he went on a three day working trip to Burkina Faso in the capacity of Chairman of the Thomas Sankara Memorial Committee. [24]

In September 2019,he paid a tribute on behalf of the president and people of Ghana,when he led a delegation to the funeral of Robert Mugabe,the late former president of Zimbabwe. [25] [26]

Awards and honours

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  1. "FLT LT JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS Former President of The Republic of Ghana". Archived from the original on 27 December 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
  2. "Ghana : History | The Commonwealth". Retrieved 22 May 2019.
  3. "Flt.-Lt. (Rtd) Jerry John Rawlings Profile". Archived from the original on 14 February 2013. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
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  5. Gracia, Zindzy (1 February 2018). "Jj Rawlings' Family". - Ghana news. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
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  20. "John Atta Mills: Politician who helped secure democracy in Ghana". The Independent. 8 August 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  21. "IYV 2001: A chronology" published at Archived 6 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine , by UN Volunteers, accessed August 11, 2016
  22. Rawlings named AU envoy to Somalia Archived 2 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine .
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  24. . Retrieved 18 July 2019.Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. "Mugabe was a 'formidable warrior' - Rawlings' tribute on behalf of gov't". Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  26. . Retrieved 16 September 2019.Missing or empty |title= (help)
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  28. Peace FM Online (27 October 2013). "Rawlings Receives Another Award In South Africa And Says The World Is Engulfed In Hypocrisy". Office of Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings/Former President of the Republic of Ghana. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.


Political offices
Preceded by
Fred Akuffo
Head of state of Ghana
Succeeded by
Hilla Limann
Preceded by
Hilla Limann
Head of state of Ghana
Succeeded by
Constitutional Rule
Preceded by
Constitutional rule re-established in Ghana
President of Ghana
1993 – 2001
Succeeded by
John Kufuor
Preceded by
Nicéphore Soglo
Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States
1994 – 1996
Succeeded by
Sani Abacha
Military offices
Preceded by
Joseph Nunoo-Mensah
Chief of the Defence Staff
November 1982 — August 1983
Succeeded by
Arnold Quainoo
Party political offices
New title National Democratic Congress presidential candidate
1992, 1996
Succeeded by
John Atta Mills