Ghana’s former President Jerry Rawlings breathed his last on Thursday in Accra. The 73-year-old died at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in the capital, Accra, where he had been receiving treatment after a short illness, reported Al Jazeera.
“A great tree has fallen and Ghana is poorer for this loss,” President Nana Akufo-Addo said confirming the news.
The Ghanian president ordered flags around the country to be lowered to half-mast for seven days of national mourning from Friday. He also announced that he was suspending campaigning for the upcoming December election.
John Mahama, presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), founded by Rawlings, has also decided to suspend campaigning for the elections.
Born in 1947 to a Scottish father and a Ghanaian mother, Rawlings was trained as an air force officer. He came to power in 1979 after leading his first coup, and then transferring power to civilian rule soon after. He staged a second coup in December 1981.
Rawlings was Ghana’s military leader until he introduced multiparty elections in 1992 that returned the country to democracy. He won the elections and was sworn in as president in 1993 and served two elected four-year terms, leaving office in 2001.
Rawlings handed over the reins to John Kufour of the opposition party who had defeated Rawlings’ vice president in the previous year’s election.
After stepping down, Rawlings remained a power broker in Ghana’s political space even after stepping down. He continued to serve in various international diplomatic posts, including as the African Union’s representative in Somalia.
African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat mourned Rawling’s death saying that Africa has lost a stalwart of Pan-Africanism and a charismatic continental statesman,
Liberian President George Weah said Ghana, Liberia, and Africa will miss a great leader like Rawling. He said Liberia will always remember his immense contribution to the attainment and sustainment of peace in the country.