By: Joe Bartuah*
November 12, 2020, the African Continent lost one of its brilliant sons, former President Jerry John Rawlings of Ghana. I was shocked when I learned about Chairman Rawlings’s passing on the social media, because I had no inkling about his ailment. With his untimely transition in his 73rd year, Africa and indeed, the Great People of Ghana have lost a farsighted leader who was one of the inspirational Pan-Africanists of his era.
It was during President Rawlings’s chairmanship of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that West African leaders took a decisive step in intervening to mitigate and sanitize the rampant killings which characterized the senseless war in Liberia for 14 consecutive years. Besides spearheading the robust posture of ECOMOG during his ECOWAS chairmanship, his government generously welcomed and accommodated hundreds of thousands of our compatriots who sought refuge in Ghana. Today, many Liberians who were refugees in Ghana still recall with fond memories the hospitalities accorded them by the Ghanaian government and their West African counterparts.
As a revolutionary leader who twice appeared on the political stage, initially in 1979 and again in 1981, I’m aware that Mr. Rawlings made some mistakes, in his youthful zest to rid his society of what he perceived then as some corrupt influences on the country. In so doing, there were some incidences of human rights violations. Upon reflection on Chairman Rawlings’s political sojourn, I am reminded of an assertion by the late South African sage, Nelson Mandela, who once told his multitude of admirers, “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.” It goes without saying that like all other mortal beings, President Rawlings had his flaws and frailties, but his virtues far outweighed his vices.
While the late Osagefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was distinctly the founding father of Ghana, I have reasons to believe that future historians will most likely identify President Jerry John Rawlings as a consummate patriot, a visionary leader whose holistic policies ultimately put modern Ghana on the socio-economic, political trajectory that is now yielding enormous developmental dividends for the Ghanaian People, amid sustained stability and democratic vibrancy. Definitely, Rawlings was not a saint, but it would be very difficult for his compatriots to doubt his stellar patriotism, because considering the intense upheavals of the late ’60, ‘70s, he eagerly wanted Ghana to move forward, for which he acted decisively for the ultimate good of his country.
He believed that a stable and prosperous Ghana was germane to Ghanaians being respected at home and abroad. He therefore saliently carved out a new paradigm for political stability and its concomitant economic development, which has now made Ghana one of the foremost tourist destinations on the African continent. The mere fact that Mr. Rawlings, 73, passed away yesterday, 19 years after peacefully transferring power to his democratically elected successor speaks loudly about the farsighted statesman he was.
Sleep well, Chairman Rawlings. Indeed, you fought a good fight and left an indelible imprint on the sand of time. May your selfless soul rest in perpetual peace.