Rawlings funeral: Ghanaians bid farewell to ex-president

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Rawlings funeral: Ghanaians bid farewell to ex-president
A traditional group performs the final funeral rites of former Ghana President Jerry John Rawlings in Accra, Ghana, on January 27, 2021. - Former Ghana President Jerry John Rawlings died in November 2020 at the age of 73 and his funeral was initially scheduled for December 23, 2020 but was postponed, due to what the foreign ministry called "unforeseen circumstances".
Traditional funeral rites for the former president have been performed

The state funeral of Ghana’s longest serving leader, Jerry John Rawlings, is taking place in the capital, Accra.

During a turbulent career, he led two coups before twice being elected president in multiparty polls.

He died in November at the age of 73 of an undisclosed illness, but his funeral was delayed – in part by political squabbling.

The ceremony began at Independence Square, with numbers attending limited by coronavirus restrictions.

But many Ghanaians headed to the square despite being asked by the government to watch the ceremony on TV in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, the BBC’s Thomas Naadi reports from the capital, Accra.

A woman looks through a brochure at the final funeral rites of Ghana's former President Jerry John Rawlings in Accra, Ghana, on January 27, 2021.
Funeral guests wore masks to stop the spread of coronavirus

Mourners are wearing masks and hand sanitiser has been provided but that it is proving difficult to practise social distancing, he says.

A nurse directs a woman to a hand washing station during the final funeral rites of former Ghana President Jerry John Rawlings in Accra, Ghana, on January 27, 2021. - Former Ghana President Jerry John Rawlings died in November 2020 at the age of 73 and his funeral was initially scheduled for December 23, 2020 but was postponed, due to what the foreign ministry called "unforeseen circumstances".
Nurses made sure guests used hand sanitiser…
Traditional leaders arrive at the final funeral rites of the former Ghana President Jerry John Rawlings in Accra, Ghana, on January 27, 2021. - Former Ghana President Jerry John Rawlings died in November 2020 at the age of 73 and his funeral was initially scheduled for December 23, 2020 but was postponed, due to what the foreign ministry called "unforeseen circumstances".
… but social distancing proved difficult, as mourners, including traditional leaders gathered

Prominent mourners include Liberia’s President George Weah, Sierra Leonean leader Julius Maada Bio and representatives from the UN and African Union.

As president Rawlings contributed to peace efforts in Liberia and Sierra Leone during the civil wars in the 1990s and most recently was an African Union envoy to Somalia. He also led campaigns against malaria across the continent.

‘A caring disciplinarian’

Tribute after tribute has eulogised the late Ghanaian leader, most describing him as a selfless and committed leader who worked for the common good of his country, our reporter says.

A photograph of the late former Ghana President Jerry John Rawlings displayed during the laying in state at the Accra International Conference centre, on 25 January 2021
The body of Jerry Rawlings lay in state at the Accra International Conference Centre for three days

Earlier, hundreds of people when to pay their respects to the former president as his body lay in state for three days.

Many of them remember him as a disciplinarian but also as a leader who cared about ordinary people, our correspondent says.

Military officials march close to former Ghana President Jerry John Rawlings' casket during the final Funeral Rites in Accra, Ghana, on January 27, 2021.
The full state funeral is taking place in central Accra after a two month delay

Rawlings will be buried later on Wednesday in the military cemetery in Accra.

Our correspondent reports that some people wanted him to be buried in his home region of Volta.

It is not the only row to dog events – the funeral was originally scheduled for 23 December.

The casket of former Ghana President Jerry John Rawlings is seen during his final funeral rites in Accra, Ghana, on January 27, 2021. - Former Ghana President Jerry John Rawlings died in November 2020 at the age of 73 and his funeral was initially scheduled for December 23, 2020 but was postponed, due to what the foreign ministry called "unforeseen circumstances".
Rawlings will be buried in the military cemetery in Accra

But the National Democratic Congress (NDC), a party Rawlings founded and which is now in opposition, wanted more involvement in organising the state funeral, which led to the delay.

One party leader even threatened to “steal his remains” following the funeral so that the party could bury him again.

Who was Jerry Rawlings?

The son of a Scottish farmer and a Ghanaian mother, Rawlings entered the Ghana Air Force, graduating in 1969.

A decade later, as a senior officer in the air force, he overthrew a military government, handing over power to a civilian leader.

He oversaw the execution of several former heads of state and army generals for corruption, but expressed some regret about the killings. Later the execution by firing squad of Supreme Court judges also left a stain on his legacy.

In 1981, he led a second coup and was the head of a military junta until introducing multiparty elections in 1992, when he was first elected president.

He ushered in a long period of political stability after a tumultuous series of coups in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 2001, he stepped down after serving two terms but continued to wield a strong influence in the country.

In later years, Rawlings campaigned for African nations to have their international debts written off.

Source: Yahoo News

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