Brief clip of Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings captured in January 1982 speaking to a crowd on top of an armoured personnel carrier and earlier in July 1979, voting at the election which would temporarily restore Ghana to civilian rule.
A member of the Free Africa Movement (FAM), an underground movement of military officers who planned unify Africa through a series of coups, Rawlings first came to power briefly in June 1979, after he was sprung from his prison cell while awaiting execution for his part in an abortive coup the previous month. An uprising led by junior officers overthrew the military government of Lt. General Frederick Akuffo. He subsequently became the Chairman of the 15-member Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC).
The AFRC handed power to an elected civilian government led by Hilla Limann later that year, but on December 31st 1981, he led another coup which deposed Limann, setting up the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) to serve as the supreme authority of state.
In 1992, he left the military to establish the National Democratic Congress through which he campaigned for election as president, a role in which he served for two consecutive terms before leaving office in 2000.
Rawlings is considered by many Ghanaians to have achieved a great deal as the leader of the country, but his legacy is complicated by the association of his military regime with political violence and his ushering in of IMF-directed neoliberal policies as a civilian ruler.
The “housecleaning exercise” conducted during his first spell as the military Head of State involved the execution of eight senior military officers, including three former Heads of State: Brigadier Akwasi Afrifa, General Ignatius Acheampong, and General Frederick Akuffo.
Also, during his second stint as military leader, three high-ranking members of the judiciary (and a retired military officer) were kidnapped and murdered by a member of the PNDC who was later tried and executed, although many believe there was a cover up.
In both situations, Rawlings has argued that he had no control over the executions of the senior military officers as well as the murder of the judges. In regard to the former, it is claimed that he was outvoted by other figures who felt they were carrying out the popular will of the people, while in the case of the latter, he has argued that the assassinations were due to the overzealous actions of junior officers.
Source of footage: Reuters News Archive.
West African Military Rulers: 1960s-1990s