The Legacy of J.J.
Rawlings in Ghanaian Politics, 1979-2000
John L. Adedeji
Jerry John Rawlings, Ghana's leader since the December 31, 1981 coup
until the 2000 elections, was a Flight Lieutenant in the Air Force and
a militant populist when he led the first coup of June 4, 1979, that
overthrew the regime of Gen. Fred Akuffo, who had, in turn, deposed
his predecessor, Gen. I.K. Acheampong, in a palace coup. According to
Shillington (1992), Rawlings was convinced that after one year of the
Akuffo regime, nothing had been changed and the coup amounted to a "waste
of time," and "it was then up to him to change not only the
status quo, but also put the country back on track."1
Rawlings, unlike many other leaders in Ghana's history, subsequently
led the country through the difficult years of economic recovery and
succeeded in giving back to Ghanaians their national pride. Chazan (1983)
observes "without Rawlings' strength of character and unwavering
determination, Ghana would not have survived the Economic Recovery Programs
(ERPs) of the 1980s put in place by the ruling Provisional National
Defence Council (PNDC)."2 Rawlings saw his leadership
role to be that of a "watchdog" for ordinary people and he
addressed problems of incompetence, injustice and corruption.
Rawlings also instituted a transition from authoritarianism to multi-party
democracy by attempting to decentralize the functions of government
from Accra to other parts of the country.3 When the
PNDC established the People's Defence Committees (PDCs), a system of
cooperatives, it became a unique move never before seen in Ghana's political
In theory, the process of political change, begun in 1982 by Rawlings
and the PNDC, was a "bottom up" strategy to ensure the involvement
of citizens in nation building. This stance resulted in the promulgation
of the 1992 Constitution, the formation of political parties, the holding
of elections in 1992 and 1996, and the building of a rural (including
grassroots) political base in Ghana. One of the most distinctive characteristics
in Ghanaian politics was that the Rawlings regime's commitment to liberal
economic reform after 1983 did change its commitment to PNDC's original
mandate. Before the implementation of Ghana's ERP, the Rawlings regime
pursued radical economic redistribution policies by courting the support
of low-income classes.
The shift in political ideology - a free market approach - would, however,
lead to tension between the government and its previous allies, such
as labor unions and student organizations. Consequently, in order for
Rawlings' PNDC to successfully manage and maintain neo-classical economic
policies, despite the aforementioned opposition, the regime had to insulate
itself from powerful social groups and deal with social opposition through:
(1) coercion, (2) weak institutional structure, and (3) heavy dosage
of financial assistance from internal donors, who were intent on making
Ghana a "show piece" in the sub-Saharan region while implementing
IMF and World Bank conditionalities, as prescribed by the Structural
Adjustment Programs (SAPs).
In 1992, Ghana held both presidential and parliamentary elections.
Rawlings, who had initially resisted multi-party politics, was elected
a democratic president and his National Democratic Congress (NDC) won
an overwhelming parliamentary majority. The next elections were held
in December 1996 and this marked a milestone in the fledgling democracy
in Ghana; for the first time in the country's political history, an
elected government actually completed its term in office, had an election
contest, and secured a renewed mandate in a democratic manner. Through
it all, the constant theme in Ghana's political and economic development
has a lot to do with the Rawlings factor.
This article reviews the achievements (and by extension, the legacy)
of J.J. Rawlings since 1983, as he entrenched the leadership role of
a "watchdog" for ordinary people by addressing the problems
of incompetence, injustice and corruption; instituted a transition from
authoritarianism to multi-party democracy; led Ghana through the difficult
years of economic recovery; and succeeded in giving back to Ghanaians
their national pride.
The approach used to assess the Rawlings legacy in this article is
that of a case study. According to Harry Eckstein (1992), a "single
case study can have powerful, and even conclusive theoretical results,"
for other African nations.4 Ghana's experience as
a nation lends itself to a historically sensitive method since it reveals
causal consequences and shows how they relate to existing political
and economic reforms.
THE TWO COUPS
The political situation in Ghana after the first coup led by FI. Lt.
J.J. Rawlings on June 4, 1979 remained fluid at best. In order to bring
about normalcy, a 15-member Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC)
was established, Rawlings was made the Chairman and the rest of the
AFRC was a careful balance of junior- and middle-rank officers of the
military. One of the decisions taken by the AFRC, according to Chazan
(1983), was that the parliamentary and presidential elections would
proceed as planned on June 18, 1979 but that the handing over of power
would be postponed for three months to October 1, 1979, to allow the
AFRC to "complete its task of house cleaning."5
The new AFRC government tried to clear up corruption in all walks of
life, especially the kalabule system (the "black" or "parallel"
market) which had affected the cost of living and which the state suspected
to be responsible for the spiraling inflation in Ghana. In fact, the
shortages and low production of the past regime were the causes. Much
of Rawlings' energy and activity in those hectic months, however, was
bound up with talking with people whom he constantly urged to be aware
that this was their revolution and it was they who were calling their
past rulers to account for their past deeds, and that the future of
Ghana was in their hands. Rawlings and the AFRC carried out public executions
of 3 former heads of state and other senior officers without trial.
These actions evoked awareness amongst Ghanaians that this regime was
not like any other, and that the new leaders meant business. But these
actions were to haunt the Rawlings government later.
To the amazement of most foreign observers, the elections were held
on schedule under conditions of unexpected calm and fairness. On July
8, the People's National Party (PNP), led by Dr. Hilla Limann (a Nkrumah
stalwart) won the elections, and then there begun a process for the
transfer of power. At the end of August, Rawlings reflected that since
he was confident that the "house cleaning" began by the AFRC
would be continued by the Limann administration, he would be handing
over power a week early on September 24, 1979. Paul Nugent (1995) reflected
on the admonitions of Rawlings to Limann at the inauguration ceremony
of the Third Republic with this famous quotation: "
lose sight of the new consciousness of the Ghanaian people."6
Those words by Rawlings would form the basis for his second coming,
not only as the leader of the 31 December coup, which toppled the weak
and ineffective Limann administration, but also the leader of the Provisional
National Defense Council (PNDC) regime, the progenitor of the dual transition
program in Ghana. To inaugurate the "second coming," Rawlings
"Fellow Ghanaians, as you will notice, we are not playing the
national anthem. In other words, this is not a coup. I ask for nothing
less than a REVOLUTION - something that will transform the social and
economic order of this country. Fellow citizens, it is now left to you
to decide how this country is going to go from today. We are asking
for nothing more than the power to organize this country in such a way
that nothing will be done from the Castle without the consent and authority
of the people. In other words, the people, the farmers, the police,
the soldiers, the workers you - the guardians- rich or poor, should
be part of the decision-making process of this country."7
The Rawlings address, given at the Broadcasting House in Accra December
31, 1981, launched his second coming as the head of a military government
in Ghana. According to Shillington (1992), one of the directives of
that speech was the setting up of People's Defense Committees (PDCs)
in the workplace and in every district out and village, so that the
decision-making in Ghana would not continue to be the preserve of politicians,
who had previously ruled Ghana under the most corrupt regime. This move
was seen as a precursor for a decentralization policy in Ghana; its
implementation, however, was another matter.
The 31 December coup had been expected for some time, as there were
several plots emerging during the early weeks of December 1981, and
many had looked to Rawlings for leadership. This time, however, Rawlings
wanted to have control of the military ranks from the beginning. Events
in the country almost ground to a halt because of the coup, but by January
2, 1982, life was returning to normal. Rawlings then made a second but
lengthier broadcast on radio and television, in which he set out in
more detail the purpose and direction of the 31 December revolution.
"Good evening, fellow countrymen. The attempt to justify the action
of 31 December, 1981, would not presuppose that we Ghanaians do not
know and feel what had been going on since September 24, 1979. Briefly,
it has been nothing short of a clear denial of our fundamental rights
as a people to enjoy the wealth of our labor. This has been the most
disgraceful government in the history of our country. It is the only
one in recent times that criminals and such others like them have become
respectable in our society. They have turned our hospitals into graveyards
and our clinics into death transit camps where men, women and children
die daily because of lack of drugs and basic equipment. To many of us,
democracy does not just mean paper guarantees of abstract liberties.
It involves, above all, food, clothing, and shelter in the absence of
which life is not worth living.
"Fellow Ghanaians, the time has come for us to restructure this
society in a real and meaningful democratic manner so as to ensure the
involvement and active participation of the people in the decision-making
With that broadcast, Rawlings achieved three things. First, he announced
the creation and assumption of power by the PNDC as the governing authority
in Ghana. Second, he used it to explain the kind of "real"
democracy that his group envisioned for Ghana as opposed to the former
experiment with democracy that provided him and his colleagues the justification
for seizing power. Third, he used the speech to establish a new political
system based on a model of revolutionary socialism which would ensure
an active participation of the people in the decision-making process.
THE DUAL TRANSITION PROGRAM
Dual transition is a combination of economic and political development.
Okome (1999), for instance, observes that the actors involved in the
politics of Nigerian economic policy-making, during its dual transition
program, could be classified into two main categories. One set of forces,
she says, was external but relevant to the reproduction of the economy,
and the other was domestic and located within the state, economy and
society. The external forces include the private international creditors
organized in the London Club and the official creditors organized in
the Paris Club, the IMF and the World Bank. They recommend Structural
Adjustment Programs (SAPs) as the "ideal solution" to the
problem of balance of payments crises and indebtedness. The domestic
forces, in contrast, included the various sectors, classes and associations,
as well as the state elite, who are prone to the same cleavages that
divide society. Okome concluded that the domestic forces are divided
between the opponents and supporters of SAP.9 In
Ghana, the political wrangling between the PNDC-led government of Rawlings
and other political organizations almost derailed the movement toward
economic reform and democracy during the 1980s and 1990s. It didn't
occur. In Nigeria it did, so there may be lessons for Nigeria (and other
African states) in Ghana's experience.
There is no agreement on the nature of the relationship between economic
and political reforms. In the case of Ghana, it is not clear why the
dual transition program embarked upon in the 1980s and early 1990s failed
or succeeded. Nonetheless, the dual transition program put in place
by the PNDC-led government of Rawlings would stay the course and yield
some good results. Under a committee headed by Kwesi Botchwey, a Harvard-educated
lawyer, the government outlined and submitted a four-year Economic Recovery
Program (ERP) in 1983.
According to Leith and Lofchie (1993), among the reasons the Rawlings
government chose to proceed with an official policy of structural adjustment
was the fact that so many of Ghana's domestic prices, including those
paid by government agencies, had already risen to reflect scarcity in
the price of foreign exchange. The excess demand pressure for foreign
exchange under the previous regime, they observed, was bottled up by
quantitative restrictions on imports and delayed international trade
payments. Furthermore, the domestic prices of most imports reflected
the scarcity of foreign exchange rather than the official exchange rate.
Devaluation would mean that the official local currency price of foreign
exchange would rise toward the scarcity value of foreign exchange, but
the scarcity value of foreign exchange would be unaffected in the short
run. The de facto price adjustments that preceded official adjustments,
they argued, also paved the way for an official change of policy, and
devaluation would not have changed the price structure of importable
goods, whose prices had already increased in the market place to reflect
the diminished real value of the cedi (the Ghanaian currency).10
EFFECTS OF ECONOMIC LIBERALIZATION AND RAWLINGS' AUTHORITARIAN RULE
When the PNDC regime instituted economic stabilization policies in 1982,
it was aware of its tendency to weaken support for the government, especially
since IMF stabilization is a euphemism for "political and social
stabilization." Conventional wisdom dictates a linkage between
economic stringency and loss of social and political support; structural
adjustment often requires careful political management as it involves
economic costs that would benefit certain groups and hurt others. Furthermore,
identifying the social groups whose interests would be hurt or promoted
by liberal economic policy is a crucial calculation of political risks.
Ghana's liberal economic reform was implemented under authoritarian
rule. After Rawlings took power by a military coup in 1981, no national
elections were held until 1992. The presidential election was full of
malpractice, including the accuracy of voters' register and the use
of state resources for assisting government candidate's campaign. This
led the opposition leaders to not only reject Rawlings' victory but
to boycott subsequent parliamentary elections in which the candidates
of opposition parties may have won many seats. Also, the PNDC was transformed
into the National Democratic Congress (NDC) after the disputed presidential
election in December 1992. As Jeong (1995) shows, because of the continued
monopoly of power in one party, the 1992 elections have not resulted
in any significant changes in government policies and its relationship
to major social groups and external economic forces.11
Under structural adjustment, business groups benefited from price liberalization
that generated profit margins. The influence of external interest increased
under economic liberalization, including donor agencies and multi-national
corporations (MNCs), especially on key sectors, since they are often
viewed as representatives of foreign interests whose main objectives
are to dominate less developed countries (LDCs) and entrench their monopolistic
positions in Africa. On the other side of the spectrum in implementing
economic liberalization, bureaucrats, manual workers, and low-income
consumers were not only directly affected by structural adjustment,
but they also comprised the urban consumers who would suffer from reduced
purchasing power and the eventual removal of government subsidies.
The elimination of government regulations also jeopardized the careers
of civil servants while giving more autonomy to producers. The tactics
employed by the Rawlings government included elite consensus, repression,
and centralization of power in order to maintain the authoritarian regime.
In short, this represents the extremes of governance in Ghana during
the 1980s and early 1990s under the authoritarian rule of Rawlings and
The emphasis of the ERP by the Rawlings regime was predicated on increased
production in agriculture and industry, combined with reducing the budget
deficit by cutting government subsidies and establishing a more efficient
revenue mobilization and collection. Rawlings, in his dealings with
Ghanaians, exhibited the virtues of effective leadership by espousing
the notion that sound economic planning would be the only guarantee
of improving the well-being of the people after years of decline. Furthermore,
since the launching of the 31 December, 1981 coup, his concern has consistently
been focused on the poor and the exploited and his declarations of "power
to the people," is reminiscent of a leader providing what is "missing"
in the body politic in Ghana, a phenomenon much sought after in many
neighboring West African regimes.
THE UNEVEN IMPACT OF STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT PROGRAMS
The accomplishments of Rawlings during the 1980s and early 1990s reflect
a period officially referred to as the "period of rebirth"
in Ghana. Rawlings espoused a multi-dimensional concept of leadership
in reforming the economy that embodied power, discretion and legitimacy,
and his success as a leader was predicated on a two-way relationship
that he had with the Ghanaian people. As a leader, he exerted influence,
but he was also influenced by and accountable to the people. He attempted
to be effective and legitimate, continually looking for ways to balance
the competing needs and wants of the people in order to build on shared
values. The political tools of Rawlings included: the establishment
of National and Local Defense Committees; emphasis on economic revival;
exposure of corrupt practices; enforcement of price controls and curbing
of smuggling; entrenchment of ERP in Ghana; and eventually, encouraging
participatory democracy and raising level of political awareness in
While many of the above-mentioned accomplishments by the Rawlings government
helped to alleviate the economic and social conditions in Ghana during
this period, there were instances where some citizens experienced negative
or mixed effects. Some Ghanaians saw the structural adjustment as causing
hardship, especially in urban Ghana. The new macro-economic policies
in Ghana also led to a retrenchment in the mainly urban and public sector
but it did shift resources and productivity toward the rural areas.
For instance, many urban groups bore much of the cost of the reform
program while internal trade terms between rural and urban now favored
Devaluation hindered wage-earning urbanites, simply because the wage
increases were not enough to offset the price increases for imported
goods. Conversely, the increase in producer prices for cocoa, other
cash crop commodities and major infrastructure improvement activities
by the government in rural areas, produced higher incomes for farmers.
Callaghy (1990) states that the ratio of the price of a metric ton of
cocoa to the urban minimum wage rose steadily at this time, thus indicating
that the relative income of Ghana's rural producers became better than
that of urban workers.12
While this might be true, not all the people in rural areas benefited
from the Structural Adjustment Program (SAP); economic conditions of
food crop farmers did not change much with higher export crop prices.
Sawyer (1988) observes that economic liberalization favored especially
landowners and commercial farmers who employed sharecroppers or wageworkers
to maintain and harvest cocoa and other export crop trees. They benefited
from higher producer prices but pursued a low-wage policy.13
During the SAP in Ghana, cocoa policies and devaluation also benefited
small farmers who were engaged in cocoa production, as there were opportunities
for wage laborers who were employed to undertake various agricultural
activities such as planting cocoa trees, harvesting cocoa beans, weeding,
and so forth. Unfortunately the SAP's emphasis on the production of
export crops for market did not help many small farmers (especially
women and landless wage earners) who operated at subsistence level.
As elsewhere, price liberalization measures in Ghana helped small producers,
traders, and craftsmen by lifting state controls on producer prices;
it provided an incentive to produce for the market, but underdeveloped
marketing structures limited increased market production.14
In these countries, as in Ghana, the rising cost of imported primary
products, shrinking domestic demand, and restrictions on domestic credit,
all converged during SAP and remained as obstacles to increased production
that was needed to benefit small producers.
Another dimension to the SAP were the cuts in food subsidies, devaluation,
and massive dismissal of workers in uncompetitive firms. According to
Harvey (1991), urban consumers suffered from higher prices via devaluations,
an end to key subsidies, introduction of user fees for medical services
and education, and the imposition of neo-liberal package on state sector
wage earners, such as reduction in civil service employment.15
On the other hand, the SAP was very favorable to the "comprador
class," which embraced a wide variety of occupations - from local
agents of foreign businesses, partners and consultants to such businesses
as hotel management and tourism. The emphasis on technocratic solutions
to economic problems during the SAP increased the influence of people
in the higher echelons of the public service. Trade liberalization,
says Harvey (1991), generates more profit for import and export merchants
and higher salaries for top executives in private businesses, especially
in the areas of foreign capital investment. In Ghana, the privatization
measures benefited those who were able to "buy up" or "buy
into" state-owned enterprises (SOEs), often at concessional prices.16
Killick (1989) states that the major gainers of such adjustment measures
as devaluation were also big local and foreign capitalists who invested
in export-oriented sectors, including gold mining, timber industry,
and other capital-intensive raw material producing industries.17
In the views of Jonah (1989), the PNDC regime's economic programs promoted
the interests of the country's external creditors and foreign companies
that previously were not able to repatriate profits and dividends. Under
IMF programs, the government kept up with payments of dividends and
other commitments despite facing enormous debt restructuring and cuts
in domestic spending.18
Overall, structural adjustment programs in Ghana favored cash crop farmers
and export-oriented industries; the policy was also beneficial to rural
areas where both devaluations and producer price increases helped to
stimulate higher production. Conversely, the same policies brought down
living standards for majority of urban dwellers, such as workers, students,
civil servants and so on, who were hit hard by IMF stabilization measures,
and they responded as economic interest groups with all the vigor they
INTEREST GROUP RESPONSES TO ERP
As expected, when the ERP was introduced in 1983, there were protests
against it, particularly from trade unions represented by the Trade
Union Congress (TUC) and student organizations represented by the National
Union of Ghanaian Students (NUGS). Ironically, these groups had formed
the initial base of support for the Rawlings regime in the early days
of the revolution. More benignly, the business class, despite its previous
hostile stance (based on the perceived government's unwillingness to
protect indigenous business interest against foreign economic hegemony),
exhibited caution in responding to the ERP even as they stood to gain
from the results of such policies as privatization and wage increases.
As for farmers, their lack of organization worked against them and they
became politically expendable; but in terms of cocoa producing regions,
the government was hard pressed not to pay them more attention, especially
as they formed a new source of support and legitimacy for the authoritarian
regime. In this regard, there were five distinct responses to the ERP
that warrants analysis: (1) labor opposition, (2) business concerns,
(3) student protests, (4) criticisms by intellectuals, and (5) interests
of the middle class.19
Labor Opposition: For the urban working class in Ghana, the
government's pursuit of economic adjustment marked the beginning of
the transition from the period of alliance to one of confrontation with
the Rawlings regime. Government's actions, such as anti-labor wage increases,
price hikes, and employment policies, completely alienated labor groups.
Ninsin (1989) observes that in a statement on October 24, 1984, the
executive board of TUC lamented "the grave and critical economic
and social situation in the country" and warned against "the
continued implementation of the IMF and World Bank-inspired SAP"
which was having deleterious effects on workers' incomes and living
conditions.20 Labor leaders were also upset at the
government for not consulting with them on policy formulation. In fact,
the working class was vociferous in criticizing the regime for neglecting
the existing mechanisms of policy dialogue, followed by their complaints
about the government's reluctance to consult with either employers or
workers about the direction of the economy.
The spillover effect of this suspicion by labor leaders related to the
government's relations with the IMF and the World Bank; indeed, the
biggest union in Ghana, the Industrial and Commercial Workers Union
(ICWU), not only accused the PNDC of not publishing its agreements with
international financial institutions and concealing the cost of maintaining
foreign advisors, it also demanded restricting debt service to 10 percent
of foreign exchange earnings. This was a bitter pill for the PNDC to
swallow. Although privatization of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and
subsequent cuts in civil service jobs angered labor unions, they were
even more opposed to government's attempts to intervene in the collective
bargaining with employers. To the unions, the government was overstepping
its bounds in getting involved in the bargaining on wage restraints,
suspension of benefits, and widespread retrenchment of workers, which
they saw as significantly weakening their power.
Krause (1987) states that the workers' strongly believed, during this
time, that "under the guise of economic crisis" the government
was trying to eliminate the trade union movement and its class representation.
Krause also observes that although Rawlings had reformed the economy
since 1983 he abandoned many of his original goals and alienated major
segments of the population.21 Before he took over,
the national economy had been wrecked by oil price increases, low import
revenues, world recession, drought, and unwise economic policies, which
served as a raison d'etre for overthrowing the civilian regime of President
Hilla Limann to establish an anti-bourgeois, anti-imperialist regime
drawing support from radical leftists, organized labor, students, junior
military officers, and ordinary citizens.
Objections to the authoritarianism of Rawlings government, which lacked
structure for grassroots participation, were widespread despite rhetoric
to the contrary by the PNDC. To Graham (1989), the workers during this
time showed they were frustrated with the "non-recognition of the
crucial role of the masses in revolutionary social transformation and
therefore the absence of any proper and consistent channels of participation
in the decision-making by the mass of the people through their organizations."22
The people were bitter about human rights abuses, such as harassment
and false detention, and then demanded protection of civil rights while
criticizing the regime for loss of revolutionary ideals that initially
brought it to power, Graham concludes.
Business Concerns: The business community, in its reaction to
the ERP, expressed concern about the government's lack of management
of industrial-labor relations. At the 28th annual meeting of the Ghana's
Employer's Association (GEA), the major concern was that "steep
price increases and other social costs had driven the trade unions to
exert pressure on our members to pay much higher salaries that are bound
to fuel the inflationary spiral and undermine that national wages and
We would like an assurance (that) we shall not
be left alone to face the brunt of workers' wrath," according to
the Economic Intelligent Unit (1988). Major complaints, concludes the
report, were about the lack of input by key social groups in economic
policy-making; the GEA pointed out the absence of a forum for employers,
trade unions, universities and other groups to exchange views on the
In terms of harnessing local private capital, Tangri (1992) states that
there were worries in the private sector about the adverse effect of
some adjustment measures, including severe liquidity problems, rising
interest rates, and high import costs, all caused by continued depreciation
of the cedi. During the mid-1980s, massive devaluation of the currency,
from 2.75 to the U.S. dollar to over 390 in 1991, generated a severe
liquidity crisis; companies that depended on imported machinery and
raw materials thus suffered from higher prices of imported goods. The
problem was exacerbated by a tight credit policy that resulted from
high interest rates designed to curb inflation.24
In observing that trade liberalization measures was not favorably accepted
by the business community, Callaghy (1990) says that the owners of existing
enterprises continued to call for protection from import competition.25
The president of the Association of Ghanaian Industries (AGI) stressed
that the business groups want to secure some form of protection to redress
"the near collapse of local industries." The EIU reported
that the GEA also called upon the government to impose import quotas
on foreign goods to save local industries from extinction. During the
implementation of ERP, the businesses facing more severe foreign competition
seemed to be unhappy with the regime's cavalier attitude that SAP generates
a favorable business environment, and that trade liberalization, in
its myopic view, would facilitate competitiveness of indigenous business.
Student Protests: The basic disagreement of students with the
government was in education user fees and low food allowances, in other
words, the removal of tuition, boarding and food subsidies. The students'
argument was primarily that education reform programs sponsored by the
World Bank limits this social welfare program to the children of the
rich, and secondly, that the government's withdrawal of these subsidies
brought extreme hardship to most students whose parents were either
retrenched or simply too poor to afford college education for their
NUGS, the umbrella student organization in Ghana, galvanized support
during its 23rd annual congress and issued complaints to the regime
the various aspects of the planned changes in the
education system would force students in boarding schools to pay higher
fees as well as other charges; and these additional charges in some
cases make the boarding fee three times the minimum civil service wages."
In an alliance with the students, the EIU reported that the TUC showed
public support for the students' demands in its message to the NUGS
Congress, by saying "as parents, we are opposed to the proposed
increase in school fees and the threat to remove feeding subsidies as
contained in the universities." This general discontent was reflected
in a letter written by the Student Resistance Committee (SRC) at the
University of Ghana and published in the West Africa magazine of August
17, 1987, which referred to the IMF "poison," that read in
"A massive retrenchment of workers is being carried out in both
state and private enterprises without a thought for the human beings
affected. The removal of government subsidies and the dramatic devaluation
of the cedi have resulted in unfavorable hospital fees and rates for
utilities and transport. We would continue to struggle till all the
remnants of the obnoxious anti-worker and anti-student policies imposed
by the IMF and World Bank puppets have been dismantled."26
Criticisms from Intellectuals: The intellectuals in Ghana also
expressed their resentment of the economic policies of the regime. The
University Teachers' Association of Ghana (UTAG) called upon the PNDC
to develop programs that can protect mothers and children as well as
promote the indigenous manufacturing sector, and that the government
should actively recognize the rights of all classes of Ghanaians. When
adjustment programs are criticized in developing countries, it is usually
through the linkage between the negative assessment of the role of international
financial institutions and their failure to deal with the ever-changing
commodity prices that makes the role of the IMF and World Bank all the
As Tsikata (1998) observes "
that role cannot be satisfactorily
fulfilled unless the operational paradigm of these institutions is specifically
oriented to human crisis that Africa confronts and the urgencies of
achieving real transformations, not mere improvements in monetary aggregates
and global macro-economic numbers."27 Stopping
short of questioning the legitimacy of the government, many intellectuals
had doubts about its sincerity in carrying out the necessary efforts
to implement the ERP. According to Kwasi Anyemadu, an economics professor
at the University of Ghana, "the economic situation in the country
was not really healthy despite some improvement brought about through
structural adjustment. Overall, there was a mistrust between the government
and the intellectuals, who believed that the PNDC did not represent
the interests of the general population, but only of those who are well
Interests of the Middle Class: Three distinct characteristics
shape the middle class in Ghana. First, they have traditionally backed
liberal economic policies; second, they distrust populist governments;
and lastly, they are consistently opposed to oppressive political rule.
During the 1980s, the majority of the Western-educated elite were frustrated
with the PNDC's closed style of governance, intolerance of criticism,
and the resulting inaccessibility due in part to the lack of real public
debate and a perceived arrogance on the part of the authoritarian leaders.
Jeffries and Thomas (1993) said the lawyers' group, which stood out
among the professionals, was able not only to highlight the flaws of
the PNDC, but it exposed the regime's practice of detention and other
human rights abuses, such as the case of the judges who were allegedly
killed by agents of the government.29 Suffice is
to say that this incident and the regime's strong-arm practices bothered
the middle class immensely.
When the ERP was proposed, its supporters were convinced that the middle
class should be able to take advantage of the adjustment program and
then engage in investment activities. Their premise was that the middle
class has the capacity to understand the positive changes of economic
liberalization, in part due to its resources and ability, i.e., its
wealth and education. But nothing could be farther from the truth. In
the views of Callaghy (1990), the Ghanaian urban middle class, who is
considered the oldest and most sophisticated in Africa, was still ambivalent
about the Rawlings regime, even up to the late 1980s. Because of the
PNDC's previous policies that antagonized them, the middle class was
not willing to show visible support for the regime. Furthermore, the
middle class remembered the frontal attack by the Rawlings government
on the wealthy before the adoption of the ERP and this caused hesitation
on their part, at least to the extent of investing their scarce capital
for an uncertain economic future.30
Bentsi-Enchill (1988) observes that the ERP was supposed to strengthen
those sections of society that would benefit mostly from the capitalist
development; but the indigenous private sector, which was once relatively
vibrant, became moribund.31 As a result, both external
donors and the government became worried about the lack of strong private
sector response to the free market economic reform; Ghanaians, most
regrettably, felt that the ERP benefited only foreign resident business
groups such as Lebanese, Indians, Syrians, and Taiwanese. Some Europeans,
who were aware of the economic liberalization program, had good management
skills, resources to invest, an understanding of the free market system,
and access to technology and information, also benefited immensely from
the ERP. Ordinarily, these attributes are impressive to possess in a
changing economic environment, but unfortunately, this group of businessmen
were despised and became targets of resentment by the indigenes. Such
resentments were expressed in a government newspaper reflecting growing
frustration of Ghanaians with foreign businessmen: "
flout Ghanaian laws and vaunt their conspicuous affluence
warned that unless they take firm steps to curb the excesses of their
countrymen, the anger of Ghanaians may spill over to those who exploit
AUTHORITARIANISM AND THE PNDC POWER STRUGGLE IN THE RULING COALITION
In his book entitled Staying Poor: Ghana's Political Economy, 1950-1990,
Douglas Rimmer observes that the radical left, including the militant
sections of students, workers, soldiers as well as organized movements,
such as the June Fourth Movement (JFM), the New Democratic Movement
(NDM), the Kwame Nkrumah Revolutionary Guards KNRG), and the African
Youth Movement (AYM), ascribed poor economic conditions in Ghana to
exploitation by foreign capitalists who have been assisted by a "comprador
bourgeoisie." He asserts that they prefer direct national control
of economic activities rather than Ghana's integration into an international
market. During the mid-1980s, the general principle of the agreements
with the IMF, as orchestrated by Kwesi Botchwey, Minister of Finance
under the PNDC regime, was supported by the pro-IMF bureaucracy and
some in the NDM.33
However, there was simple resistance to the adjustment program from
some factions in the SOEs, revolutionary organizations, or "people's
power," and some grassroots political organizations that tried
to undermine the state structure. Hutchful (1989) asserts that those
forces were unpredictable and not easily subject to control. The state
bureaucracy, he continues, attacked this problem from two fronts: (1)
It looked for allies who could re-introduce "discipline" and
help arrest anarchistic developments, and (2) it hoped to use the agreement
with international financial institutions (IFNs) to control labor movements.
The major opposition to any form of collaboration with IFNs came surprisingly
from the leftists faction supported by nationalist intellectuals and
workers' organizations.34 Jeong (1995) states that
the opposition proposed a self-reliance policy based on popular mobilization
and looked for economic assistance from specialist countries. The position
of the anti-IMF faction, however, was weakened by the failure to obtain
aid from alternative sources, he concludes.35
Overall, implementation of the ERP in the 1980s and the political pressure
from donor agencies resulted in the disorganization and defeat of the
progressive groups who were subsequently driven to the fringes of power.
Aside from the fact that the PNDC survived many coup attempts after
introducing the ERP, there was a lot of opposition to the regime from
other organized groups that had strong ties to students and labor that
vehemently denounced Rawlings and his government's close ties to IFNs.
The initial response to this opposition was PNDC's repression of public
discussion of adjustment measures and criticisms of the government through
the use of draconian means such as outlawing or restricting strikes,
stopping mass protests and demonstrations, and the use of force by the
state. This lack of representative institutions was sustained until
the elections for district assemblies held in 1988. Even after the 1992
national elections the atmosphere was not congenial enough to provide
a suitable milieu for wider political participation. Consequently the
political legitimacy of the Rawlings government, despite a competitive
multiparty election, had a cloud hanging over it because of the prior
repression of labor unions and lack of public discourse of government
In terms of repression of popular movements, Callaghy (1990) observes
that government officials were most worried that political instability
following resistance from key opposition groups could have a devastating
impact on the remarkably sustained efforts of the ERP.36
Workers were seen as a major concern to the PNDC regime since they could
disrupt the economy. Thus, since the inception of the ERP, Rawlings
had attempted with some success, to reduce the economic and political
power of workers; and while often stressing the need for discipline
and productivity, the government had often railed against labor unions'
demands for wage increases.
The PNDC, says Graham (1989), depended on "moral exhortation"
and a subtle campaign depicting some workers as "self-interested".
In some speeches, Rawlings often stressed "productivity,"
"discipline," and "hard work," as the tools needed
by Ghanaians to reverse the economic crisis. The press, under the influence
of the government, praised farmers for their contribution to the nation,
while at the same time urging workers to restrain their demands; when
they are not being described as unproductive, says Graham.37
Opponents of popular movements were appointed to high office, and as
their influence grew, there was a marked alienation of popular forces,
including the working class from the regime.
Without any doubt, labor agitations and unrests were often met by severe
repression, as it happened on many occasions during this period when
government used military and police forces, for example, against workers
in disputes at Assene factory in Accra and the striking mine workers
of the State Gold Mining Corporation at Dunkwa, according to Ninsin
(1989).38 Graham (1989) states that the growing
gap between the PNDC regime and labor was more dramatically represented
in the four-month battle that erupted in April at the Pioneer Food Company
in Tema. The labor struggle and the brutal repression by the police
demonstrated the regime's growing hostility to the working class, and
eventually reflected the evolving changes in the government's policy
toward industrial relations, he concludes.39 It
would not be far-fetched to assert that the PNDC changed to its role
of repressing labor movements in order for it not only to implement
donors' policies, but also to ensure that industrial relations would
not stand in the way of its neo-classical economic reform. This political
and ultimately ideological shift exemplified the direction chosen by
the PNDC regime to pursue the ERP; that is, authoritarian rule that
not only repressed but stifled participation in the political system.
Shaw (1993) observes that in order for the PNDC to build a new support
base it had to resort to the politics of capacity mobilization and formal
representation. The dilemma for the regime, however, was that the major
beneficiaries of the ERP - expatriate businessmen and cocoa farmers
- proved difficult to mobilize for support. First, the success of foreign
businesses in Ghana, at the supposed expense of local ones, has been
embarrassing for the government especially with ERP. Second, cocoa farmers
represented a weak interest group that could not be counted for any
kind of political mobilization if the need arose. Consequently, the
regime was at a loss when it came time to find allies to build rural
support for its policies and mobilization for formal representation.40
In order to overcome the dilemmas of broadening its political base,
the regime reached out to a diverse group composed of lawyers, professionals,
and the 31st December Women's Movement - the most prominent women's
group in Ghana, to show its inclusiveness in Ghanaian politics and decision
making. The courting of local chiefs and members of the clergy was seen
by many as a last ditch effort to garner rural support by the PNDC regime.
Krause (1987) asserts that Rawlings saw the traditional chiefs as "instruments
of stability" and "linkage with the rural population,"
and the only ones able to overcome populist resistance and reduce anti-government
sentiment. The clergy, on the other hand, were seen as capable of swaying
the beliefs of their own followers through religious injunctions and
moral suasions, and they fulfilled their role to the delight of the
Another aspect of the political hurdle for the Rawlings regime was how
to balance ethnicity and political and economic outcomes in Ghana. Jeffries
and Thomas (1993) observe that the political economy of distribution
in Ghana has been based on regional as well as class relations, and
essentially, ethnicity has affected the support base of economic policies
through these patronage relationships.42 In terms
of the ERP, Green (1987) states that it was positively received in the
main cocoa growing regions, such as Ashanti and Brong Ahafo, which had
suffered from previous government policies due to over-taxation and
underpayment of cocoa producers. The PNDC's economic policies have been
unpopular in the Accra region, including Sekondi and Takoradi, with
its large number of organized labor and business and professional groups
that resisted the authoritarian regime at every opportunity, he concludes.43
To address the question of ethnic diversity for the government, Rawlings
reached out to many ethnic constituencies, including the Ewes, Adangbes,
Ashantis, and Brongs. Mikell (1989) says that since effective political
control in Ghana necessitates broad support and policies separated from
ethnic, regional or economic favoritism, Rawlings attempted to build
ethnic cooperation by emphasizing the irrelevance of ethnicity in constructing
a strong Ghana; and, to some extent, he succeeded in doing just that.44 In1987, in its effort to create political reconciliation,
the regime introduced the Program of Action to Mitigate the Social Costs
of Adjustment (PAMSCAD).
To many in Ghana, this conciliatory stance was seen as well timed, especially
as the government announced decisions to increase social spending for
low-income classes before the local district elections in 1988 and the
presidential elections in 1992. The PAMSCAD was designed to ease resistance
of workers who believed that they have shouldered a disproportionate
share of the cost of adjustment. Callaghy (1990) asserts that as the
regime faced difficult challenges following several monetary and institutional
reforms, the program attempted to prevent worsening economic conditions
of retrenched workers and the poor. The PAMSCAD, he concludes, was a
result of external donors and the government to gain political support
for more reforms.45 There were two reasons for this
course of action. The donors reasoned that this would sustain the Ghanaian
experiment at structural adjustment, setting an example for the rest
of Africa where SAPs were under attack.
The PAMSCAD was an important political test, not just for the Rawlings
regime, whose adherence to World Bank/IMF- backed programs caused much
political grief, but also for the external donors, who attracted much
criticism in Ghana, in addition to the risk of nurturing the seeds of
political resentment whenever SAPs are concerned. It was no coincidence
that Ghana, one of very few African countries to follow the World Bank/IMF
programs closely, would be the first subject of political resentment.
The PAMSCAD offered an opportunity for the government to legitimize
its economic programs.46
In the 1990s, the efforts of the international donor community gradually
moved toward political reform as well as economic liberalization. Jeong
(1995) observes that the pressure for a pluralistic system was based
on the confidence that Ghana has overcome difficulties caused by economic
stabilization, and that the slow progress in institutional reform has
led to recognition of the necessity for a political system that is more
susceptible to World Bank/IMF policy.47
J.J. RAWLINGS: THE LEADERSHIP FACTOR
In analyzing leadership competence, Decrane (1996) said that there are
four fundamental qualities that have remained constant over time: character,
vision, behavior and confidence. He observes "leaders who can spark
the imagination with a compelling vision of a worthwhile end that puts
us beyond what is known today, and who can translate that into clear
objectives, are the ones we follow."48 The
difference between the success and failure of the dual transition programs,
embarked upon simultaneously by Ghana and Nigeria in the early 1980s,
lies not so much in the modernization or dependency theories or the
bureaucratic-authoritarian model, but rather in the vision and competence
of the leaders at the helm of affairs in the respective countries. While
this argument might seem naïve or superficial to some, there is
ample evidence to show that the role of leaders has a lot to do with
the type of public policies they initiate and those they eventually
Wilheim (1996) states "effective leaders have the vision required
to see things differently from others. They collect and arrange the
same data we all see in ways that allow them to conceive of new and
unseen phenomena... A core characteristic of all effective leaders,"
he concludes "is the ability to have a vision of where they are
trying to go and to articulate it clearly to potential followers so
that they know their personal role in achieving that vision."49
In Nigeria, Gen. I.B. Babangida, who came to power in a coup in 1985,
was woefully corrupt, repressive and inept in presiding over a government
that was severely criticized for the manner in which it attempted to
implement the transition program that often vacillated between liberalization
and repression.50 Ghana, under Rawlings, was able
to weather the storm despite many severe economic and political conditions.
He was able to focus his efforts and make choices based on the goals,
values, and ideals that he felt ought to be advanced on behalf of Ghana.
He also had uncanny foresight. Greenleaf (1977) says "
is the 'lead' that the leader has and once leaders lose this lead and
events start to force their hand, they are leaders in name only."51
Between 1981 and 1983, Rawlings endured a lot of hostility from many
Western governments because of Ghana's close links with Cuba and Libya
and his fearless anti-imperialist rhetoric, which made Rawlings one
of a select group of targets of the Reagan administration's foreign
policy. From the historic low of 1983, when the ERP was introduced,
conditions in Ghana could only improve. Much of the credit for the country's
economic recovery in the years that followed must be given to the Ghanaian
people, whose courage, faith, determination, acceptance and cooperation
made the economic revival possible.
Harman (1998) says, "Leadership requires a values orientation that
should be accepted, adopted and then translated into a vitalizing vision."
The leader, he concludes, is then responsible for articulating the kind
of vision that the community validates based on the leader's perception.52
Despite many failings, Rawlings espoused a vision of what Ghana ought
to be to sustain Ghana's economic growth and political stability, a
rare phenomenon for leaders in developing sub-Saharan states.
Rawlings' military training in the Air Force Academy gave him the opportunity
to acquire a regimented, structured and disciplined disposition about
life, and he was ready to lead after being in the military for a number
of years. Furthermore, his compassion and concern has been focused on
the exploited and poor in Ghana, and his revolutionary "power to
the people" was his way of scanning for the forces of change, a
rare trait in developing economies. In order to create this vision,
Rawlings was well aware that he had to communicate his passion about
change so others could share in it and then get them to work as a unit,
contributing their best towards the achievement of that vision.
To share the vision adequately, Bennis (1989), in his work entitled
On Becoming a Leader, says "leaders are people who are able
to express themselves fully, know what they want, why they want it,
and how to communicate what they to others in order to gain their cooperation
and support."53 Lastly, to marshal action,
Kouzes and Posner (1996), observe "a leader must have a sense of
direction and a vision for the future, and it is the capacity to paint
an uplifting and ennobling picture of the future that assures people
of the possibilities and images of great potential."54
From his training days in the Air Force academy, leading the first coup
in 1979 and head of the AFRC, handing over power to an elected president,
working behind the scenes to ensure the success of democracy, and coming
back to lead the 31 December revolution, Rawlings was able to marshal
actions to create and sustain the vision of a better society for the
Ghanaian people. Many Ghanaians equally believe that Rawlings is a man
of strong emotions, convictions and driven by a passion for moral justice,
intellect and integrity. On the intellectual front, they maintain that
he is the first leader of charisma and stature since Nkrumah (in his
early days). Many in Ghana believe that Rawlings' achievements in the
political and economic realm were possible only because of his tenacity,
honesty, clear objectives and sense of direction.
During the 1990s, Ghana was transformed from a country saddled with
economic depression and political instability into a politically aware
and economically prudent nation-state, but there was still a lot to
be done. According to Herbst (1993), Ghana needed to adhere to the ERP,
sustain the development challenges and entrench the political system.
After a decade of adhering to the economic reforms, as prescribed by
the IMF and the World Bank, in which Ghana was used as a test case for
structural adjustment in Africa, he observes, there was the potential
for economic renewal under the guidance and vision of Rawlings and his
ruling party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).55
While others disagreed with this conclusion, events in Ghana have shown
that the opposition that could have challenged Rawlings was weak at
On balance, during the 1990s, Rawlings focused on the political essentials
underlying effective growth and de-emphasized redistributive issues
and neo-imperialism stressed by the critics of structural adjustment.
Governing problems, observe Vinzant and Crothers (1995), represent the
most pressing dilemmas facing most societies because the governance
system is beset with problems of paralysis, public mistrust, and "wicked"
public policy issues.56 The Ghanaian government,
at the time, had to seek reasons for the striking difference between
Ghana and the Asian Tiger countries of South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan
and Hong Kong.
The Asian Tigers' success story, states Chibber (1991), lies partly
in the interaction between the public and private sectors; the liberalization
of trade and barriers (including removal of tariffs, administered prices,
etc.); and the existence of real exchange rates. The Ghanaian government
saw the need to have clear roles in its dealings with the private sector,
concludes Chibber, and that the relationship was expected to transcend
any suspicions by the public and private sectors, especially on the
part of government technocrats who harbored acrimonious feelings against
their "money-grabbing" counterparts in the private sector.57
Rawlings also learnt from the fiscal prudence of the Asian Tigers, enough
to prompt him to propose spending programs toward promoting and not
competing with the private sector. According to Hussain (1994), the
revolutionary environment for the private sector was enhanced through
a low corporate tax structure, import duty exemptions on capital equipment,
and liberalization of trade and foreign payment arrangements to help
sustain the Ghanaian economy.58
DEMOCRACY IN GHANA FROM THE 1996 TO THE 2000 ELECTIONS
When the 1996 elections were completed, there was a clear indication
that the result was taking hold. Onadipe (1997) states, "
for the first time in its political history, a civilian administration
was able to complete its term in office and also secure a renewed mandate
democratically. The opposition also accepted the results." With
this political development, Ghana, to many observers in the international
community, seemed to have left the ranks of African countries saddened
by military coups and repressive dictatorships. Through this democratic
process, Ghana ascended to the group of civilized, responsible and representative
governments, or more aptly, a workable democratic experiment in Africa.
Onadipe asserts, "the simple fact that the incumbent Rawlings administration
allowed the electoral process to move on with the opposition adequately
represented, speaks volumes of how far political development has come
During the four years after the 1992 elections, democratic rule was
not disrupted and the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), which
Rawlings led along with its parliamentary majority, governed the country
with relative peace and less political and social rancor. Unfortunately,
this same political sentiment cannot be said for neighboring Nigeria,
where the despotic rule of Gen. I.B. Babangida was just coming to an
end, after he cancelled the 'freest and fairest' election the country
has ever experienced, and the equally ruthless regime of Gen. Sani Abacha
was coming to life. Furthermore, in 1996, Rawlings, with his second
mandate and visionary stance, was poised to lead his country through
another four years of political compromise and then serve out his two
consecutive terms as president and arrange for the next round of elections
in the year 2000. In spite of this sentiment, there was still a mystique
about Rawlings; the charismatic leader who has had the unique opportunity
to effectively lead his nation and accomplished so much over a nineteen-year
Onadipe (1997) observes, "though Rawlings' victory in 1996 was
not a foregone conclusion despite the incumbency factor and the limitless
resources at his disposal, such as uninterrupted media coverage, use
of government facilities and transportation for his campaign, his popularity
was probably the most crucial factor." Rawlings courted voters
through populist projects, such as rebuilding Ghana's crumbling infrastructures
including roads, hospitals, and electricity for rural areas. This should
be an excellent case study for Africa's growing ranks of democratic
leaders, he concludes.60 Rawlings' victory left
no obvious aftertaste because his lengthy stay at the top was an advantage.
In the first place, the younger voters, who had known him as head of
state, seem impressed enough to vote for him rather than an unknown
in the opposition. Additionally, Rawlings enjoyed a connection with
younger Ghanaians who saw him not only as one of them in terms of his
age (some call him JJ or Jerry), but also because of his imposing figure
and dashing looks which was complemented by well-tailored suits and
During the 1996 campaigns, the NDC focused on rural areas; the strategy
paid off as the ruling party won ten out of eleven regional capitals,
mostly in the rural areas where most Ghanaians live. Rawlings had strategically
targeted rural areas for development; he provided roads, water, electricity,
and other facilities that usually encourage urban drift and he was simply
rewarded with a second term. The issue of providing rural services helped
to decide the election and future of Ghana for the next four years in
the second and final term of Rawlings at the helm of affairs. The NDC
ran a campaign slogan: "Let there be light for rural people, for
they are Ghanaians too!"
The opposition, sensing that the charisma of Rawlings was too big for
them to impugn, resorted to highlighting the dismal economic status
of the country. They pointed to the rate of economic growth that since
September 1992 had slowed considerably with a corresponding sharp increase
in the inflation rate and significant reduction in the standard of living.
The opposition accused Rawlings of insensitivity especially in view
of the supposed ostentatious living style of the presidential household.
The outcome of the election was a testimony to the awe and respect with
which Ghanaians treated Rawlings, and in the waning years of his stewardship,
his concern shifted to the person who would carry on the 'revolution'
and also keep the party together for the 2000 elections.
In the aftermath of the 1996 elections, in which Rawlings was elected
to a second and final term as president, Ghanaians were demanding reconciliation
and change. National reconciliation became essential, says Onadipe (1997),
because the people believed that Rawlings had alienated himself from
the general populace through the execution of many politicians and former
leaders, the imprisonment of opposition figures, and confiscation of
people's property.61 In a newspaper interview with
the Daily Graphic, of January 21, 1997, Kabrah Blay-Amihere, the Ghanaian
president of the West Africa Journalist Association, declared: "Rawlings'
AFRC and the PNDC created many wounds and polarized the society. Since
he became president in 1992, he never met the opposition or the private
there is need to need build bridges. All Ghanaians should
be made to feel they belong to Ghana."62
The result of the December 2000 elections gave John Kufour of the New
Patriotic Party (NPP) victory over Rawlings' National Democratic Congress
(NDC) in a run-off election. This prompted the BBC "Talking Point"
program of December 9, 2000 to ask the questions: "Has Ghana reached
political maturity?" and if so, "Has the election set a good
example for the rest of Africa?" The program not only elicited
wide-ranging comments from many respondents, but they provided many
Many Ghanaian respondents expressed their joy and pride that the election
was peaceful, and that the rest of the world, especially the West, never
believed that an African country could hold a democratic election without
a hitch. Their comments exemplified the joy of Africans and national
pride of Ghanaians, as the nation made a transition toward democratic
On December 18, 2000, while participating in a BBC Special Political
Forum in the aftermath of the Ghanaian elections, Professor Gyimah Boadi
and Audrey Gadzekpo responded to general questions regarding the future
of Ghana and the possibility of Rawlings returning to rule. Gadzekpo's
response was mostly esoteric in nature: "In view of Rawlings' young
age as a former head of state (he is 54 years old), energetic and with
lots of ideas, Ghanaians would have to deliberate on the means of taking
care of him in a manner that would 'dissuade' him from coming back."
He also pointed that during the campaign President Kufour responded
to the question of whether Rawlings could be tempted to come back by
as a former statesman, Rawlings would be called
upon from time to time to do statesmanlike services, provided he will
keep within the bounds of law."
It is my argument, however, that based on the charisma and achievements
of Rawlings, the populist ideology of the June Fourth Movement (JFM),
and political awareness of Ghanaians, the Kufour coalition needs to
be vigilant and proactive because the politics of "divide and conquer"
would bring Ghana back to the period of political instability and slow
economic growth reminiscent of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Professor Boadi's response on the future of Ghana was a diabolical stance
on the legacy of Rawlings. He said "there is a lot to love about
Rawlings and also a lot to hate him for; in short, he is a polarizing
figure." As regards the post-Rawlings era, he said, "I think
as far as the public is concerned, what will happen to Rawlings out
of power has a lot to do with the kinds of activities he decides to
get involved in that would be befitting to a man of his stature."
"There has to be a sense of gratitude to Rawlings," he asserted,
"for presiding over two terms of an elected administration, and
for following constitutional provisions on presidential term limits
and handing over power to a victorious party after the elections."
As a postscript, these comments from experts were not only prophetic,
but also realistic as they exemplified the political situation in Ghana.
In December 2000, Rawlings handed over power smoothly to the next elected
party and left office.
Many Ghanaians believe that Rawlings, more than any other individual
in the country's history, has led them through the difficult years of
economic recovery and has given them back their self-respect and national
pride. Without his strength of character and unwavering determination,
according to Chazan (1983), Ghana would not have survived the ERP.63 Rawlings saw part of his role as the head of state to be that of a "watch
dog" for the people; in that role, it was not unusual for him to
speak his mind and intervene in issues whenever he saw what he considered
to be an injustice, corruption or gross incompetence. The process of
political change begun in 1982 by Rawlings, in my view, was a deliberate
strategy to rebuild the political structures from "bottom up"
and at each stage, to ensure that the citizens were involved (usually
in a referendum) to debate the issues and decide their future in the
name of nation building.
The vision resulted in the drafting of the Constitution, formation of
many political parties, and holding of the 1992 elections, all based
on good planning to guarantee the restoration of electoral and political
systems in Ghana. When Rawlings was reelected in 1996 to a second and
final term, many observers saw it as the perpetuation of the political
malaise of "sit-tight leaders" in Africa; political events
in the aftermath of the elections had since proved the skeptics to be
incorrect. Nonetheless, when the 2000 elections were held, Rawlings
had ruled Ghana for 19 years - a lot less than many other incumbents
in Africa, but unlike other African leaders, he had many accomplishments
to show for his stewardship in Ghana. In this respect, Rawlings brought
about many positive changes and his enduring legacy will not only guarantee
strong economic pursuits and an entrepreneurial class but also sustain
democracy and human rights in Ghana.
In September 1999, Rawlings reflected on his 18 years at the helm of
affairs in Ghana, in an interview with the Rev. Jesse Jackson on CNN's
"Both Sides with Jesse Jackson." Rawlings, among other things,
stated that he saw his stewardship as an unusual opportunity; he presided
over regimes that instituted authoritarian rule, engaged in political
and economic reforms, and encouraged an administration that engendered
multi-party democracy in Africa. In response to a question as to whether
he saw himself as a visionary leader, Rawlings responded unequivocally
"yes." "At the risk of sounding immodest," said
Rawlings, "I knew that Ghana would not be brought out of the political
abyss of 1981 without a visionary, but more importantly, the people
were yearning for nothing less than a popular democracy. They were asking
for nothing more than the power to be part of the decision-making process
of their country. In other words, they wanted a voice in deciding their
everyday life, as it is done in the West, and not for politicians to
be dominant and who are all-knowing to be at helm of affairs of everyday
life in Ghana." Rawlings also used the opportunity to express his
immense gratitude to the Ghanaian people by bestowing on him the rare
honor of being their leader and for giving him the chance to govern.
In conclusion, I argue that the leadership qualities enumerated in this
article - effective, transformational, and visionary - all espoused
by Rawlings, have provided Ghana with a political system that could
endure for a long time. Rawlings seized the rare opportunity of guiding
the affairs of his country, saw it through several political and economic
transitions in the 1980s and 1990s, alienated political and social groups
by employing authoritarian means, obtained financial aid from institutional
donors to implement the various recovery programs, entrenched an economy
that is growing through long-term structural adjustment, and sustained
a democracy that is not only a work-in-progress but an institutionalized
political system. Overall, Rawlings left a legacy where Ghanaians, as
a people and society, have the enviable opportunity to enjoy the quality
of life and also reap the benefits of a systemic development in an ever-changing
global, political and economic environment.
Africa News. December 7-20, 1992. p.5.
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Decentralization Policies in Ghana. London: Avebury Ashgate Publishing
Bennis, W. On Becoming a Leader. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing
Bentsi-Enchill, N.K. "Year Six of the PNDC: The PNDC and National
Policies." West Africa Janauary 11, 1988. p.17.
Callaghy, T.M. "Lost Between State and Market: The Politics of
Economic Adjustment in Ghana, Zambia, and Nigeria," in Joan M.
Nelson, ed., Economic Crisis and Policy Choice: The Politics of Adjustment
in the Third World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.
Chazan, N. An Anatomy of Ghanaian Politics: Managing Political Recession,
1969-1982. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983.
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John Adedeji is with the Doctoral Program
at the School of Public Affairs and Administration at Western Michigan
University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S.A.
Style: The following is the suggested
format for referencing this article:
Adedeji,J.L. 2001. "The Legacy of J.J. Rawlings
in Ghanaian Politics". African Studies Quarterly 5(2): 1.
[online] URL: http://web.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v5/v5i2a1.htm