Ghana declares seven days of mourning after the passing of former president

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Ghana has declared seven days of mourning after the passing of former President Jerry John Rawlings. He was being treated at a hospital in Accra after battling a short illness.

Rawlings died on Thursday at the age of 73. According to a family member, he was receiving treatment for an undisclosed illness at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and had been there for almost a week.

There’s been an outpouring of grief from Ghanaians on the news. Many Ghanaians say he was one of the most charismatic leaders the country has had.

Rawlings first came to power in the 1979 coup when he was an air force lieutenant. He transferred power to civilian rule soon after but then led another coup two years later, decrying government corruption and weak leadership.

From 1981 to 1993, he ruled as chairman of a joint military-civilian government. In 1992 he was elected president under a new constitution, taking up that office the following year.

Former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings dies at age 73:

As president, he liberalized Ghana’s economy, encouraging investment in the oil and gold sectors.

In 2001, he handed over power to John Kufour of the opposition party who had defeated Rawlings’ vice president in the previous year’s election.

After stepping down, Rawlings remained a power broker in Ghanaian politics while serving in various international diplomatic posts, including as the African Union’s representative in Somalia.  – Reports by SABC correspondent Nabil Ahmed Rufai from Accra & additional information by Reuters