Jerry John Rawlings has blamed his inability to achieve much more during his 20-year stay in office on a lack of support for his governments by the Western world.
Speaking on Sunday Night with Kwaku Sakyi-Addo on Asaase Radio, in the second instalment of his two-part interview on Sunday 12 July 2020, the former president said many of the countries which made great strides while he was in office, such as South Korea and Malaysia, received a great deal of support from wealthy countries and superpowers such as Japan and the United States of America. It is this support that accounted for their success, he argued.
“Those of us in Africa have had a very dicey situation, especially during the Cold War between the West and the East, where they just hung things in front of our noses to keep us in line,” Rawlings said.
“This country’s political mode became revived after Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s role … he [Kwame Nkrumah] played a very important role also. But with time we suffered that decline, and then the spirit of this country got revived. We were hoping that we could enjoy some financial assistance from the now matured socialist countries, because some of us are diehard socialists. But I am a flexible one,” he joked.
“But … they wouldn’t give us any assistance of any sort. We were desperate for assistance. We didn’t even have enough money for drugs in our hospitals. So we had no choice but to go to the IMF and the World Bank. And their restrictions, their constraints, the difficulties of dealing with their finances, was such that it was making it difficult to fly off the way we could have done,” he said.
“We should have enjoyed a lot more support than they [Western countries] were willing to part with,” Rawlings said.
Jerry John Rawlings was born on 22 June 1947. He was both a military and a political leader in Ghana who twice (1979, 1981) overthrew the government and seized power. His second period of rule (1981-2001) gave Ghana political stability and good economic management.
Rawlings is the son of a Scottish father and a Ghanaian mother. He was educated at Achimota School and the military academy at Teshie. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Ghana Air Force in 1969 and became 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 General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong and Lieutenant General 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.
He continued to be a popular figure, however, and on 31 December 1981, after two years of civilian rule during which Ghana’s economy continued to deteriorate, he overthrew Limann’s democratically elected government, accusing it of leading the nation “down to total economic ruin”. Rawlings established a Provisional National Defence Council as the new government and imprisoned Limann and two hundred other politicians. People’s Defence Committees were set up in neighbourhoods, as were workers’ councils to monitor production in factories.
By 1983, when the failure of these and other populist measures had become clear, Rawlings reversed course and adopted conservative economic policies, including dropping subsidies and price controls in order to reduce inflation, privatising many state-owned companies, and devaluing the currency in order to stimulate exports. These free-market measures greatly revived Ghana’s economy, which by the early 1990s had one of the highest growth rates in Africa.
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 on 7 January 2001, when he handed over to John Agyekum Kufuor, the second president of the Fourth Republic.
The repeat broadcast of part two of the “Sunday Night” Rawlings special will be aired on Tuesday 14 July (7pm). Catch it on Asaase Radio (99.5FM).