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Jerry John Rawlings was born at Adabraka in Accra on 22nd June 1947, to a Ghanaian mother from Dzelukope, near Keta, in the Volta Region, and a Scottish father. His mother is called Victoria Agbotui and his Scottish father, James R. Johns.
He was educated at Achimota School where he obtained his General Certificate of Education ‘O’ Level in 1966. It was at Achimota School that he met Nana Konadu Agyemang who later became his wife. He also met Dr. Kwame Nkrumah at the school.
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.
In March 1968, he was posted to Takoradi in the Western Region to continue his course. He passed out in January 1969, as a commissioned Pilot Officer. He won the coveted “Speed Bird Trophy” as the best cadet in flying and airmanship.
After achieving his ambition to be a pilot, Jerry John Rawlings tracked down his childhood sweetheart, Nana Konadu Agyeman to rekindle their love.
Nana Konadu Agyemang after completing Achimota School continued her education at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi where she obtained a degree in Art and Textiles.
After almost a decade of courtship, Jerry John Rawlings and Nana Konadu Agyemang finally got married on 29th January 1977.
He earned the rank of Flight-Lieutenant in April 1978. He was an efficient officer with a close rapport with his men.
During his service with the Ghana Air Force, he witnessed the deterioration of discipline and morale, reflecting the corruption of the regime of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) at that time led by Colonel I.K. Acheampong.
As promotion brought him into contact with the privileged classes and their social values, his awareness of the injustices in society was sharpened.
He was thus regarded with some unease by the SMC. He read widely and discussed social and political ideas with a growing circle of like-minded friends and colleagues.
On May 28, 1979, Flt.-Lt. Rawlings, together with six others, appeared before a General Court Martial in Accra, charged with leading a mutiny of junior officers and men of the Ghana Armed Forces on 15th May 1979.
There was a strong public reaction, especially after his statement had been read in court, explaining the social injustices that had prompted him to act.
The ranks of the Armed Forces, in particular, expressed deep sympathy with his stated aims. When he was scheduled for another court appearance on 4th June 1979, Flt.-Lt. Rawlings was sprung from custody.
With the support of both military and civilians, he led a revolt, which decisively ousted the Supreme Military Council from office and brought the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) into being.
The AFRC, under the chairmanship of Flt. Lt. Rawlings carried out a “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 the principles of accountability and probity in public life.
He and the AFRC ruled for 112 days and arranged the execution by firing squad of eight military officers, including Generals Kotei, Joy Amedume, Roger Felli, and Utuka, as well as the three former heads of state: Afrifa, Acheampong, and Akuffo. Rawlings later implemented a much wider “house-cleaning exercise” involving the killings and abduction of over 300 Ghanaians
Meanwhile, following the program already set in motion before the 4th June Uprising for civilian administration, general elections were held.
On 24th September 1979, the AFRC handed over to the civilian Government of the People’s National Party (PNP) under President Hilla Limann.
Rawlings continued to be a popular figure, however, and on December 31, 1981, after two years of weak civilian rule during which Ghana’s economy continued to deteriorate. Flt. Lt. Rawlings led the section of the Armed Forces to overthrow the Limann’s PNP administration, accusing it of leading the nation “down to total economic ruin.”
A Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), composed of both civilian and military members, was established, with Flt-Lt. J.J. Rawlings as the Chairman.
Rawlings established a Provisional National Defense Council as the new government and imprisoned Limann and some 200 other politicians.
“Peoples’ Defense Committees” were set up in neighborhoods, as were workers’ councils to monitor production in factories.
When the failure of these and other populist measures had become clear by 1983, Rawlings reversed course and adopted conservative economic policies, including dropping subsidies and price controls in order to reduce inflation, privatizing many state-owned companies, and devaluing the currency in order to stimulate exports.
These free-market measures sharply revived Ghana’s economy, which by the early 1990s had one of the highest growth rates in Africa
Rawlings had a natural touch; A man of the people. His style of leadership gave power to the people and they loved him and the people came to believe and understand they have the right to hold the government accountable.
His interests include reading, building model aircraft, horse-riding, and swimming. Nana Konadu Agyeman after marrying Rawlings gave birth to four children – three girls and a boy. Kimathi Rawlings, Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings, Amina Rawlings, Yaa Asantewaa Rawlings, Ezenator Rawlings.
Flt-Lt. Rawlings ceased to be a member of the Ghana Armed Forces with effect from September 14, 1992. He formed the National Democratic Congress, which contested and won the 1992 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
Jerry John Rawlings and his party the National Democratic Congress again won the 1996 elections. His term of office ended in the year 2000 where he handed over in January 2001 to President John Agyekum Kuffuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
He is the joint recipient of the 1993 World Hunger Prize. He holds an Honorary Doctor of Law Degree from Medgar Evers College, City University of New York, and Lincoln University Doctorate Degree for Diplomacy and Development.
Flt-Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, the former and longest-serving president of Ghana died on 12th November 2020. He was 73 years. May his soul rest in Perfect Peace