Ghana's ex-president Jerry Rawlings dies aged 73

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

Jerry Rawlings dies aged 73 (Image: Getty)

Ghana's former President Jerry John Rawlings has died at the age of 73.

He died in hospital in the capital, Accra, after a short illness.

A charismatic and long-serving leader, he led two coups, first in 1979, before twice being elected president in multiparty polls.

Rawlings was also seen as a champion of the poor, but was later criticised for alleged human rights abuses.

John Mahama, presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), founded by Rawlings, has announced that he is suspending campaigning for next month's elections. A week of national mourning has also been announced.

Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo said: "A great tree has fallen, and Ghana is poorer for this loss."

The rise of Jerry Rawlings

The son of a Scottish farmer and a Ghanaian mother, Rawlings entered the Ghana Air Force, graduating in 1969.

He oversaw the execution of several former heads of state and army generals for corruption, but expressed some regret about the killings.

In 1981, he led a second coup and was the head of a military junta until introducing multi-party elections in 1992, when he was first elected president.

He began his time in power as a committed socialist, but later introduced free-market reforms.

He stepped down in 2001 after serving two terms but continued to wield a strong influence in the country.

Tributes poured in

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said "the entire African continent will sorely miss the sterling qualities of the great leader".

"The passion, discipline and moral strength that the former Ghanaian leader employed to reposition his country over many years continue to reverberate across the continent and beyond," he said in a statement.

While Liberian President George Weah said "Ghana, Liberia and Africa will miss a great leader".

"Liberia remembers his immense contribution to the attainment and sustainment of peace during our dark days of our own history," he added in a tweet.