Ghana has declared seven days of national mourning in honour of former President Jerry John Rawlings, who died on Thursday morning.
In a statement issued by the Presidency in Accra, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo: “I have directed that all national flags should fly at half-mast for the next seven days in all parts of the country and I have declared seven days of national mourning from Friday 13 November 2020.”
President Akufo-Addo said it was with great sadness that he was announcing to the nation that the first president of the Fourth Republic, Jerry John Rawlings, has “joined his ancestors”.
He said the tragic event occurred at 10.10 am (GMT) on Thursday at the Korle bu Teaching Hospital in Accra where the former president was receiving treatment after a short illness.
“I convey the deep sympathies of the government and the people of Ghana to his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, the children and the family of the late president in these difficult times.”
He said in honour of the memory of the former president, he and Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia have suspended their political campaign for the same period. Ghana is scheduled to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on 7 December.
The statement said the Government will work closely with the family of the late president on the arrangements for “a fitting funeral” for him.
“A great tree has fallen, Ghana is poorer for this loss,” he said.
Rawlings is a staunch supporter of the present President and his death is a big blow to their re-election strategy.
Meanwhile, the family of the former president is asking for privacy as it mourns him.
“The family requests privacy at this difficult moment,” his eldest child, Dr. Ezanetor Agyeman-Rawlings, said in a statement in Accra.
Reports from Accra said hundreds of people have been pouring into his house in tears as the shocking news spread.
Rawlings, 73, a former Flight Lieutenant and fighter pilot, was born on 22 June 1947.
He burst onto the Ghanaian political scene when he was arrested and tried for mutiny in May 1979.
At that trial, Rawlings, who was a fighter pilot, defended himself by criticising the military leadership at the time and widespread corruption.
This won him many admirers and he was sprung from jail on 4 June by junior officers and other ranks to lead an uprising that they called “house cleaning exercise”.
Three former military leaders were executed during the period which was regarded as the bloodiest in Ghana’s history.
He handed over to a civilian government in September 1979 but staged another coup on 31 December 1981 and ruled as a military leader until 1993.
Then he was sworn in as a civilian president after winning multi-party election on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) which he formed.
He served two terms as the democratically elected President of Ghana from 7 January, 1993 to 7 January, 2001 when he handed over to John Agyekum Kufuor.
Kufour’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) defeated Rawling’s party in the election in December 2000.