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Ghana’s Former President Turns 60

Ghana’s former President Jerry Rawlings celebrates his 60th birthday today Friday. Rawlings, who was born on 22nd June 1947, joined the air force as a cadet in 1967, after leaving school, and in 1978 he was promoted to the rank of flight lieutenant. He became the leader of the country first as a military leader before winning two consecutive presidential election terms, which ended in 2000. He is credited with improving Ghana’s economy and bringing about stability, during his rule. He has reportedly maintained his reputation as an honest and rather ascetic leader who has not used his position for personal enrichment.

Speaking from the capital Accra, former President Rawlings tells VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey how it feels to be 60 years old in Ghana.

“It’s quite an interesting figure when you talk about being 60 years old because when I look back when I was a young man and my life through school, you know through the air force and all that, I must say time has flown pretty fast. Physically, I would say I’m just below high average, but I cannot say I’m feeling emotionally too good,” he noted.

Ex-President Rawlings said he is not happy about how Africa is treated internationally.

“The global situation is choking us, especially those of us in the third world in Africa, in Ghana. So I could say physically, I could get by. But I feel emotionally disturbed by the painful political, economic situations back at home,” he pointed out.

He praised Ghana’s founding president Kwame Nkrumah for his vision, and for setting the stage for the country’s potential development, which he notes took off shortly after independence.

“We cannot deny the solid foundations, the foresight of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah for building the Akosombo Dam. But generally speaking, I would say that whenever, we take two steps forward we take one step backward. But as I said Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, thankfully, laid the foundation to move forward,” he said.

The former president said some previous governments failed to move the country forward, thereby retarding the progress of Ghana’s development.

“If I may be very specific, some of the following governments like the NPP (Ruling New Patriotic Party) family rolled us back. (Former President Ignatius Kutu) Acheampong rescued the country, but also set us back. The AFRC (Armed Forces Revolution Council), followed by the PNDC (People’s National Defense Council) and the NDC (National Democratic Congress) moved this country several steps forward. And now, sadly the NPP has moved us back into the dark ages again,” he pointed out.

Former President Rawlings explains some of the successes of his administration.

“Let me say that what I feel good about in terms of what we’ve contributed is the restoration of the sense of confidence, the feeling of being human, and of being a proud Ghanaian. And not a slave like what we’ve been through sometimes in the past under certain regimes. A defiant society that does not have to live in fear of anyone, whether you are a Ghanaian or a foreigner like we’ve seen before in this country. But sadly, once again, we are back in the era of fear and subjugation and massive corruption,” he said.

The former president said good upbringing and a sense of nationalism, are some of the values that he espouses.

“Actually, this is how we are all brought up. You know, and I believe that a good number of us are able to retain our sense of discipline and our level of integrity. I think the most immoral thing you could do is to commit the very crime for which others lost their lives. People lost their lives in order to restore accountability and integrity. People paid the highest price with their lives for corrupting and nearly destroying this country. So I just can’t see myself turning around and committing the very crimes for which others were made to pay with their lives. You know, you don’t do that,” he said.