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Ghanaian Officials Interrogate Former President - 2002-08-13

Security officials in Ghana have called former President Jerry Rawlings in for questioning. The interrogation took place after Mr. Rawlings, who left office last year, urged his supporters to engage in civil disobedience of the current government.

Former President Jerry Rawlings appeared on several radio news programs in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, Tuesday, describing what he said was a brief interrogation by officials with Ghana's Bureau of National Investigations. The former leader said officials asked him about comments he made last weekend while visiting the central city of Kumasi.

In remarks to his supporters in Kumasi, Mr. Rawlings accused the government of President John Kufuor of corruption. He urged Ghanaians to engage in what he called positive defiance of the Kufuor government, saying, in his words, we don't have to wait for the next election to prevent the rot.

The next presidential elections in Ghana are scheduled for 2004.

Ghana's justice minister, Nana Akufo Addo, said the Bureau of National Investigation called in Mr. Rawlings to discuss the remarks, which Mr. Addo said could be considered illegal. The justice minister said an investigation is underway.

Jerry Rawlings, a former flight lieutenant, first came to power in Ghana in 1979 after staging a military coup. After three months, he stepped aside, allowing an elected civilian government to take over.

Two years later, however, in 1981, he staged a second coup and remained in power until last year. The new president, John Kufuor, had defeated a member of Mr. Rawlings' National Democratic Congress party in the December 2000 presidential elections.

Since Mr. Rawlings left office, human rights organizations and members of the Kufuor government have launched a series of accusations against him, saying his administration carried out numerous executions and committed human rights violations during his time in power.