Jerry Rawlings: 10 things Ghanaians won't forget about the late former president

Jerry Rawlings: 10 things Ghanaians won't forget about the late former president

Optimism befell Africa after the end of colonization that ensued a revolutionary era with strategic leaders steering nations into the new-age civilization. Indeed, it was a task that some leaders gave their all to achieve. Jerry Rawlings took over leadership in Ghana amid this transition, seizing the country’s top seat after a successful, second coup d’état. The former Ghanaian President that afforded the country great political stability and economic development perished on November 12, 2020. Rawling’s 20-year rule created unforgettable stepping stones for the country.

Jerry Rawlings
Jerry Rawlings (1947 - 2020) at the African Unity Organization Summit In Sirte, Libya In September 1999. Photo: Jerry Rawlings
Source: Getty Images

Many considered Jerry Rawlings as God’s gift to Ghana, a towering figure in African politics that left an interesting legacy. The statesman’s intent to bring the Ghanaian government close to the ordinary citizen worked amazing wonders for the nation, something that illustrated his great enthusiasm for democratic leadership.

That is why Jerry Rawlings death shocked the African continent and the entire world. Indeed, the leader was more than a political figure in Ghana and Africa, the perfect embodiment of authoritarianism and democracy.

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Jerry Rawlings bio

Jerry Rawlings (born June 22, 1947, in Accra Ghana – died November 12, 2020) was a Ghanaian military officer and politician that ruled the nation from 1981 to 2001. Jerry Rawlings father is Scottish and his mother (Victoria Agbotui) is Ghanaian. She died on September 24, 2020, at the age of 101.

Which school did Jerry Rawlings attend? He entered the Ghana Air Force, graduating in 1969. Ten years after his military graduation, the renowned African politician overthrew the government and handed over power to a civilian leader.

However, he oversaw another coup in 1981 and ensued military rule in Ghana until 1992, when he introduced multiparty elections. Jerry Rawlings was elected President of Ghana that saw him lead the country until 2001 when he stepped down.

By the time Rawlings left office after 20 years in power, he had served democratically elected two terms and had created a profound democratic example in Ghana.

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Jerry is survived by his wife Nana Kaonadu Agyemang (married in 1977) and a beautiful family or successful children. So, who are Jerry Rawlings children? They are Zanetor, Yaa Asantewaa, Amina and Kimathi.

Interesting facts about Jerry Rawlings that Ghanaians would hardly forget

Jerry Rawlings
Former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings (1947 - 2020) (right), and Britain's Queen addressed. Photo: Jerry Rawlings
Source: Getty Images

Virtually every African nation has that one leader that ruled with an iron fist, transitioning their nations into different political environments. Jerry Rawlings, a son of a Scottish father and Ghanaian mother, represents this perspective for Ghana. He ruled at a time when the country demanded massive institutional and economic transformations.

Even after leaving the Presidency, Jerry Rawlings continued to be a popular figure as he led the nation to amazing breakthroughs. His decision of stepping down from the Presidency was seen as a great democratic gesture, a great achievement for African politics.

1. Introduced multiparty democracy in Ghana

Although Jerry seized power in Ghana after a successful coup, he brought multiparty democracy to the country after a few years as the President. He attempted to strike a proper balance between authoritarianism and democracy, decentralization and a strong presidency.

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Many knew Jerry Rawlings as a military leader, and his transformation into a civilian president was a great achievement. In 1992, after the introduction of a multiparty system that ushered in a new era of democracy, he ran for president as a civilian and won.

He served the Ghanaian people for two terms, stepping down in 2000, to everyone's surprise. He had already occupied the office for the allowable constitutional two-term limit.

2. He brought the government to the people

Jerry Rawlings was committed to Ghanaians and brought the government closer to the people. Many have even attested seeing him in person, and some even have witnessed the former president get out of his car to direct traffic.

Before becoming the President, Ghana was ruled by traditional authorities, "big men" that steered the country into corruption with poor governance. Jerry Rawlings brought about grass-roots networks of different members of society into national politics.

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Additionally, he encouraged ordinary citizens to take part in governance via the People's Defence Committees. This was a great way of holding politicians accountable.

3. Jerry initiated incredible infrastructure development

It is no secret Jerry Rawling brought about great infrastructural development in Ghana. He is credited for "opening up the North," and initiating great development in other regions of the country. These initiatives gave his political party great mileage that others have been using until today.

4. Formulated and implemented Vision 2020

Since Jerry Rawlings had a great vision of transforming Ghana into a middle-class economy, similar to Singapore’s, he created Vision 2020. He presented this ideology to parliament in 1995 that outlined an aggressive long-term plan for the country.

This included human and economic growth, rural and urban development, as well as incredible infrastructural projects. Jerry used Singapore as a great example in the Vision 2020 project since the country had managed to transform itself from a third-world to a middle-income nation in a short period.

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5. Oversaw two military coup d’états

When was the last coup in Ghana? Jerry Rawlings, the Ghanaian leader that toppled two regimes in two coups, led Ghana into its last coup.

Jerry Rawlings first came to powers after a successful coup in 1979 for a brief time. He overthrew the government of Ignatius Kutu Acheampong that had also secured the country’s top seat via a coup eight years before.

Jerry Rawlings was part of the Free Africa Movement, an underground association of military officers that wanted to unite Africa. Jerry handed over power to civilian president Hilla Limann. However, two years later, Jerry Rawlings ousted the president in another coup claiming that the country’s economy was worsening.

6. Rawlings was a great pan-Africanist

Jerry Rawlings
Britain's Queen (middle left) with Prince Philip (middle right), Jerry Rawlings (1947 - 2020) (left) and his wife (right) on their arrival at Accra Airport. Photo: Jerry Rawlings
Source: Getty Images

Jerry’s vision wasn't only for his country Ghana, but a united and politically stable Africa. Many will remember him as a strong pan-Africanist that put great effort to make Africa better. He was known in Ghana as "Papa Joy," a leader that brought democracy and peace in the country.

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In May 2020, Jerry Rawlings was amongst other celebrities and influential personalities in calling for help in combatting COVID-19 in Africa. He said:

Africa is a continent of rich history, culture uniqueness and dynamism. Africa must rise above this as we have done with every previous challenge. Together as one, I know we shall overcome, and if music is the food of love, let us play on.

7. Jerry oversaw great policies and reforms in Ghana

Jerry Rawlings had a contradictory legacy with brutal beginnings, military rule, and then a democratic era with free elections. Regardless, many people in Ghana will remember him for the policies and reforms that he initiated in Ghana.

Among his greatest achievements is the establishment of the Economic Recovery Program (ERP) that was suggested by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in 1982. This was necessary because of Ghana's poor state of the economy after trying to govern it via administrative control and mass mobilization.

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Additionally, he relaxed control over the Judiciary and Civil society, creating a more independent Supreme Court. Jerry Rawlings initiated massive policies in the country that made things better, something that Ghanaians will remember him for.

8. Jerry Rawlings brought great political stability and economical steadiness.

Ghana's post-colonial history is interesting as it is the era everything was gaining momentum. Jerry Rawlings oversaw this transition. Even though his beginning was first chaotic and authoritarian, he changed and adopted a democratic approach that brought political and economic equilibrium.

Jerry Rawlings did this by giving people the power to govern and implementing globally tested and accepted policies to stabilize the country’s economy.

9. Handed over power to a civilian

Ghanaians will remember Jerry Rawlings as the president that handed over power peacefully to a civilian after the termination of his term according to the Constitution. He even made people forget about military rule, which was common in Ghana before he took power.

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Ghanaians even do not remember the last time they experienced authoritarian rule and even wonder, "When was the last coup in Ghana?" Jerry Rawlings decision to introduce a multiparty democracy, and then step down after expiry of his term limit was a great precedent for other African leaders that have been seen to clinch on to power.

10. Jerry remained a great power broker

After leaving the Presidency, Jerry Rawlings continued to have a great influence in Ghana and Africa. He became a very powerful power broker in Ghanaian politics and served in various international diplomatic posts. This included the African Union representative in Somalia.

Additionally, Jerry played a great role after retirement by giving speeches in Ghana and other parts of the world. He even dispensed political advice to his successors.

Jerry Rawlings was a great Ghanaian President that continued to have massive influence even after leaving office. He left a great legacy laden with innumerable achievements for his country and Africa thanks to his pan-Africanism.

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Comedian Waris: 5 things you didn't know about the funny Ghanaian on November 15 featured a touching piece about Kofi Adam’s former spokesperson. According to Kofi, even though he fell out with the former revolutionary Ghanaian President, he will miss him a lot.

Kofi worked with Jerry Rawlings for years and is one of the closest individuals to the former President in NDC. He joins many other people mourning the fallen African leader that initiated numerous reforms in Ghana.

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