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Jerry John Rawlings

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Jerry John Rawlings

Jerry John Rawlings (born Jeremiah Rawlings John 22 June 1947 in Accra, Gold Coast) is a former leader of the Republic of Ghana and now the African Union envoy to Somalia. Rawlings ruled Ghana as a military dictator in 1979 and from 1981 to 1992 and then as the first elected president of the Fourth Republic from 1993 to 2001. He initially took power in a coup d'état, but in the 1990s following sustained political and economic pressure from international institutions and governments began a process of economic and then political liberalization. He founded the National Democratic Congress which won the 1992 general election. He took office in 1993, and was re-elected in 1997.

Rawlings appeared on the Ghanaian political scene on May 15, 1979, leading a group of junior officers in the Ghana Air Force in a coup attempt on the regime of Fred Akuffo which resulted in his arrest and imprisonment. He was court-martialled in public and sentenced to death.[citation needed] On June 4 military officials overthrew the Akuffo government and released the Rawlings group from prison just weeks before general elections were scheduled.

Rawlings and company formed the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and conducted what it termed 'a housecleaning exercise,' where large sums of stolen government money were retrieved into government coffers and inflation was stabilized. An election held that year was won by Dr. Hilla Limann of the People's National Party (PNP). However, on December 31, 1981 Rawlings and the AFRC overthrew Dr. Limann's government, citing economic mismanagement. Rawlings then installed the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) government with himself as chairman.

Rawlings retired from the Armed Forces and set up the National Democratic Congress. This party, with Rawlings as its candidate, won 58.3 % of the votes (the largest percentage won by a presidential candidate in Ghana's political history) in the 1992 elections. The opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) claimed that the election was stolen, although international observers judged the elections "largely free and fair." In 1996, Rawlings won the general elections by 57 percent and elections were judged largely free and fair by international observers.

After two terms in office, barred by the constitution from standing in any election, Rawlings endorsed his vice-president John Evans Atta Mills as presidential candidate in 2000. The NDC with Mills as candidate, however, lost the elections to the NPP candidate John Agyekum Kufuor. Once again, elections were judged to be free and fair.

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 which he used as seed capital in establishing the University of Development Studies (UDS) in the north of Ghana.


J.J. Rawlings was born June 22, 1947 to Victoria Agbotui from Keta and to James Ramsey John, a Scottish chemist working in the then Gold Coast. He married Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings in 1977 and together they have four children, Ezenator, Yaa Asantewaa, Amina and Kimathi Rawlings, his only son.

He 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, Teshie, in Accra.

Military career

In March, 1968, he was posted to Takoradi in the Western Region 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.

On May 28, 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 May 15, 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.[citation needed] The ranks of the Armed Forces, in particular, expressed deep sympathy with his stated aims.

While awaiting his next appearance before the court, Rawlings was sprung from custody on June 4, 1979, by a group of soldiers led by Kojo Boakye-Djan. 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 June 4, lives were lost in 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 bloody as critics claim it was because the majority of ranks decided not to fight each other on the orders of the top brass. As one of his first acts in power, Rawlings signed the orders for the execution of former military dictator who was later executed: Ignatius Kutu Acheamphong. Five other generals—-Joy Amedume, Yaw Boakye, Roger Felli, Kotei, and Utuka—-were also put to death. Rawlings has never denied responsibility for this, but the country was in a state of vengeful anarchy, and both civilians and lower ranks were calling for the 'blood' of the SMC and other officers they felt had caused injustice to the state.

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 and graft as well as restoring a sense of moral responsibility and accountability in public life. Meanwhile, following a programme already set in motion before the June 4 uprising, the ruling military government organized free general elections. On September 24, 1979, the AFRC handed over power to a civilian government led by the People's National Party (PNP), under President Hilla Limann.

The killings of Supreme Court Justices Kwadjo Agyei Agyepong, Frederick Sarkodie, and Cecilia Koranteng Addo, or those of military officers Major Sam Acquah and Major Dasana Nantogmah was another painful incident in Ghana's history.

Limann's administration was cut short on December 31, 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. The coming of the PNDC was widely praised by Ghanaians who were disappointed with Limann's Government because of their return of the corrupt status quo from before June 4, 1979. the PNDC government was a pragmatic government that focused on a hands-on approach and sustainable development. The PNDC, led by Flt. Lt. J.J. Rawlings began the process of decentralisation in Ghana which today has created the foundation on which Ghana's democracy stands. J.J Rawlings believed in demystifying government so that the ordinary Ghanaian could feel that they could actively take part in decision making.

Primary health care was another policy the PNDC advocated strongly, and it put in place policies that focused on disease prevention.

Democratic President

In J.J Rawlings' first official speech subsequent to the removal of the Limann government, he announced the creation of the National Commission on Democracy (NCD), which would begin the decentralisation of government and the dissemination of people-power. Opposition to the PNDC, with pressure from the United States through the CIA began demanding a return to multi-party democracy, although a referendum showed mixed feelings by the Ghanaian citizenry on this. The National Commission on Democracy was put into high gear to begin the process to return the country to multi-party elections. National Commission for Democracy (NCD) was 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 September 14, 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 November 3, 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 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 about 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. Kufuor ran for another four years with the mandate of the people of Ghana.

Post-presidency activities

October 2010, Jerry Rawling named AU Envoy to Somalia , African Union chief Jean Ping has appointed Rawling this position an he believed that Rawlings, 63, would be tasked with "mobilising the continent and the rest of the international community to fully assume its responsibilities and contribute more actively to the quest for peace, security and reconciliation in Somalia".

Rawlings later played a key role as a check on the NPP government during his time as the then president. He has given lectures in universities around the world, including a lecture in Oxford University titled 'Security and Democracy in Africa.' He has continued his heavy criticism even with his own party back in power with his former vice President who he worked hard to elect at the helm.

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Ghana, Accra, Republic of Ghana, Jerry John Rawlings, National Democratic Congress, Jeremiah Rawlings, African Union envoy to Somalia, Rawlings, military dictator, Armed Forces Revolutionary Council

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