Former Ghanaian President Jerry John Rawlings dies at 73

Former president of Ghana Jerry Rawlings, speaks during a conference at the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford, Oxford, England.

Former President of Ghana, Jerry John Rawlings died in the early hours of Thursday November 12, sources close to the family revealed. He was aged 73.

The former military leader had been on admission at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, for about a week for an undisclosed ailment.

Rawlings was a former military leader and subsequent politician who ruled Ghana as a military head of state and then served two terms as the democratically elected President of Ghana.

The death of the founder of National Democratic Congress (NDC), the major opposition party in the country, comes as a shock at a time when general elections are near. The presidential and parliamentary elections in Ghana are scheduled for December 7.

The former Ghanaian leader buried his mother, Madam Victoria Agbotui, in October. She died at the age of 101.

Jerry John Rawlings was born on June 22, 1947 to a Scottish father and a Ghanaian mother. He was educated at Achimoto College, then attended the military academy at Teshie and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Ghanaian air force in 1969 as a flight lieutenant and expert pilot, skilled in aerobatics.

In June 1979, Rawlings and other junior officers led a successful military coup with the purported aim of purging the military and public life of widespread corruption. He and his Armed Forces Revolutionary Council ruled for 112 days, during which time the former heads of state, Gen. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong and Lieut. Gen. Frederick W.K. Akuffo, were tried and executed.

Rawlings then yielded power to a freely elected civilian president, Hilla Limann, who promptly retired Rawlings from the air force.

On December 31 1981, Rawlings overthrew Limann’s government, accusing it of leading the nation “down to total economic ruin.” He established a Provisional National Defense Council as the new government and imprisoned Limann and some 200 other politicians.

In 1992, in the first presidential elections held in Ghana since 1979, Rawlings was elected as president. He was re-elected in 1996 and stepped down from the presidency in early 2001, handing over power to John Kufour.

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