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Ghana’s Jerry Rawlings (1947—2020): From Strong Leadership To Advocate For Strong Institutions

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

Africa | Ghana November 13, 2020

Ghana’s former President Jerry Rawlings is dead, reported some media. Mr Rawlings died in the capital Accra on November 12, 2020. He was 73. Said to have been very popular in Ghana and Africa at large, the charismatic Jerry Rawlings ruled Ghana briefly in 1979, and then from 1981 to 2001.

A former army flight lieutenant, Jerry Rawlings began his full-fledged rule in Ghana as leader of a ruling military junta called Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) from 1981 to 1993. He then became a civilian and politician, founding his own political party called National Democratic Council (NDC) under which he contested for country’s presidential position that he won in 1993. The victory enabled to extend his reign for four years before been re-elected for a second and last four-year term in office in accordance with Ghana’s Constitution, that ended in 2001.

Jerry Rawlings’ rule in Ghana could be described in two phases.

On the first hand, the first phase that spans from 1981 to 1993 could be said to have emphasized strong leadership rather than strong institutions.

On the other hand, the second phase that spanned from 1993 to 2001, he embraced civilian rule and multi-party democracy, and advocated for a shift from strong leadership to strong institutions.

Rawlings’ political evolution that led to his recognition of the importance of strong institutions in democracy, governance, and development, was probably one of Ghana’s greatest political milestones. The country ’s current position as reportedly one of the few true multi-party democracies in Africa could be said to be an outcome of the above metamorphosis of Rawlings politically.

While Ghana has moved away from strong leadership and forged ahead with strengthening its institutions instead, some African countries that claim to have adopted multi-party democracy still embrace strong leaders that often attack and weaken their countries’ institutions, as they thrive to galvanize their leaderships through legal mechanisms and tools specially made for that purpose. One of the problems facing such countries is that once the strong leaders, usually power mongers and selfish, are gone, the countries may be left at limbo politically, unable to move on quickly without them. That is because, through propaganda the leaders can succeed in misleading their citizens during their often reigns of terror, that out the countries' millions of citizens, there were no other people who could rule and deliver development!


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