Ghana’s former leader Jerry Rawlings, who seized power twice in military coups but went on to bring democratic rule to the West African country, died on Thursday at the age of 73, the country’s president said.
President Nana Akufo-Addo said Rawlings died on Thursday morning at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in the capital, Accra, where he had been receiving treatment after a short illness.
“A great tree has fallen, and Ghana is poorer for this loss,” the president said.
Akufo-Addo ordered flags around the country to be lowered to half-mast for seven days of national mourning from Friday and said he was suspending campaigning for the upcoming election in December.
Rawlings was born in 1947 to a Scottish father and a Ghanaian mother who died in September at the age of 101.
Rawlings, who trained as an air force officer, came to power in 1979 after leading his first coup, and then transferring power to civilian rule soon after.
In December 1981, he staged a second coup and was Ghana’s military leader until he introduced multiparty elections in 1992 that returned the country to democracy.
He won the elections and was sworn in as president in 1993 and served two elected four-year terms, leaving office in 2001.
Rawlings 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.
The former Ghanian president is survived by his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman, whom he met while at Achimota School.
They have three daughters: Zanetor Rawlings, Yaa Asantewaa Rawlings, Amina Rawlings; and one son, Kimathi Rawlings.