Rawlings goes home today


Thousands of people will today gather at the Independence Square in Accra to observe the final funeral rites of the late President Jerry John Rawlings before an interment service at the Military Cemetery. The former president died on November 12, 2020 at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital at the age of 73.

Mr. Rawlings was Ghana’s leader since the December 31, 1981 coup until the 2000 elections. Before that, he ruled the country for 100 days with the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) in 1979.  The two-time coup maker supervised a successful transition from a military rule into democracy in 1992.

For many people, Mr. Rawlings will always be remembered as the father of Ghana’s modern democracy since Ghana’s fourth republican status was birthed under his regime. Already, the public has been given the opportunity to file past the remains of the former president to pay their respect. A trader in Osu who recounted fond memories about her first encounter with Mr. Rawlings after filing past the body said he was a man of the ordinary people.

“In the late 1980s Rawlings used to walk on the streets of Osu like any ordinary man even though he was a Head of State. This made ordinary people love him and we always wanted to associate with him. I am very sad that he is dead. We shall dearly miss him,” she said.

As a leader, Mr. Rawlings was noted for his unquenchable disdain for corruption and on several occasions publicly criticized members of the party he founded—the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Loved by many, he was equally criticized by others for most of the excess and human rights abuses that occurred under his watch as a leader, particularly during the military regime.

For some, the atrocities that happened under Mr. Rawlings during the 1979 Revolution destroyed social order and ushered in an atmosphere of a culture of silence and intimidation. Rawlings had maintained that the period was ripe for probity and accountability.

On countless occasions, he has boldly stated in interviews that the times and circumstances in the military rule gave no chance to spare corrupt officers who looted from the nation and desecrated the integrity of the uniform that was revered by society.

In his last days, Mr. Rawlings was not a happy man. He was troubled. Two things got to him according to a close friend of the family— Group Captain Richard Forjoe. He disclosed that Mr. Rawlings was unhappy with the book ‘Working with Rawlings’ published by a one-time confidante, Professor Kwamena Ahwoi. Secondly, the demise of his mother, Victoria Agbotui who passed at the age of 101 hit him hard.

According to Group Captain Forjoe, Rawlings felt betrayed by people he trusted. “That book that was written and the response from those he worked with really hit him very hard. We did our very best to restrain him from responding but it was a big blow to him. Then comes the mum’s death, and that also hit him very hard and getting the benefit of hindsight, his last days were not the best aside from the medical condition that deteriorated,” he said.

Indeed, Mr. Rawlings himself expressed disgust at the book which he said was a calculation by the author to regain authority over the NDC. “Much as I find it tiring and tedious to be engaging in self-defense when I have given my all, all these years, I will soon deal with the callous agenda of bile by the likes of Kwamena Ahwoi, who are desperately seeking control of the NDC party,” he said in Facebook post.

Due to his commitment to national duties, Mr. Rawlings’ first child, Dr. Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings narrated at a recent virgil held in his father’s honour that he cherished the little time that came his way with the family. For her, one value from her father that will stay with her is the love for ordinary people and the desire to move people from poverty to wellbeing.

He left behind four children and a wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings.

About the man

Mr. Rawlings was a Flight Lieutenant in the Air Force and a militant populist when he led the first coup of June 4, 1979, that overthrew the regime of Gen. Fred Akuffo, who had, in turn, deposed his predecessor, Gen. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, in a palace coup.

Mr. Rawlings led Ghana through the difficult years of economic recovery and successfully signed on to Economic Recovery Programmes (ERP) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

Road to ERP under Mr. Rawlings 

During the 1970s Ghana went through a number of economic difficulties with high inflation, unstable exchange rate regime, and a declining GDP of about 3 percent on average. The country also witnessed food shortages that became so severe that ordinary people in Accra were having trouble finding enough to feed their families.

Due to a galloping inflation, the minimum wage recorded a loss of 62 percent of its value in the period. By 1983 Ghana’s economy had hit the worst drought in memory. A number of events led to more economic difficulties after the cocoa farms caught fires and Ghana’s major hydrodam, the Akosombo Dam ran out of water, leading to power shortages. To make matters worse, Ghanaians were also expelled from Nigeria within the period due economic hardship in the west African country.

By April 1983, the Rawlings government announced a new budget along with a devaluation of the local currency, the cedi. The 1983 budget was followed by a number of reforms contained in the Economic Recovery Programmme.

The ERP was a major reversal in the policies of the previous government of the country introducing a market-based approach known as diversification programme. This approach saw the privitisation of many state-owned enterprises.

The ERP also forced government to over-liberalised the economy to allow private sector participation in critical areas of the economy. Some of the state-owned companies that were privitised included the Tema Steel Company, Golden Tulip Hotel, while other companies such as Produce Buying Company, Aluworks, and Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB Bank) were privatized through the Ghana Stock Exchange, which was launched under Mr. Rawlings.

Major policies passed under Rawlings

Under Rawlings, Ghana passed the value added tax to secure government revenues, which today funds most government public expenditures. He also passed the Ghana Educational Trust Fund (GET Fund) that is today educating millions of Ghanaians.

The creation of District Assemblies’ Common Fund, the GetFund, the Road Fund, the EDIF and the Energy Fund are just a few programmes that decentralized the economy, educated millions and provided much needed financing for various sectors of the economy. It must be stated that Mr. Rawlings expanded electricity to northern parts of Ghana – hitherto ignored by ruling elites since 1957.

Major road construction

Rawlings also pursued aggressive urban road expansion and reconstructed the entire Kumasi city roads, Sekondi-Takoradi city roads and the 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.

In addition, Mr. Rawlings constructed the Kumasi-Sunyani asphalt road, the Kintampo-Tamale-Bolgatanga-Paga Faso asphalt road, and the double surfacing bitumen Bibiani-Awaso-Sefwi Wiawso road.

Educational development

Surprisingly, Rawlings used his Hunger Award Prize Money to establish the University for Development Studies, and used the rest 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, thereby adding two new public universities to the three that had existed since independence.

He also introduced the policy of allowing the establishment of private tertiary institutions, including universities, to supplement the public sector universities while implementing the policy of one region, one polytechnic. Importantly, Mr. Rawlings made sure that every district had at least two senior secondary schools.

Health development

Mr. Rawlings constructed the modern regional hospitals at Cape Coast, Ho and Sunyani.  In addition, 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.

Housing development

The housing sector saw major uplift during the era of Mr. Rawlings with housing estates at Adenta, Sakumono, Lashibi, and on the Spintex Road all in Accra. In addition, he constructed the SSNIT Estates all over the country were constructed during his era.

Debt issues

Ghana’s debt reached alarming levels by 2000. After the exit of the Rawlings’ government, Ghana’s debt to GDP had crossed the critical 75 percent mark making the country a debt stressed nation. The next government that succeeded the Rawlings administration, John Kufuor government went to the IMF for the country to be declared a HIPC nation.


Returned Ghana to democratic rule in 1992, after a public referendum by a wide majority approved a new constitution.

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