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12.09.2002 Feature Article

We Must Say No, to the Rawlings Dictatorship

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...Never Again

I wish to response to the recent outbursts by Jerry Rawlings, former President of Ghana and more particularly the interview he gave to the Weekly Insight published in GHANAWEB.COM on 6th September 2002. Many people have responded to the statements made by Jerry Rawlings. The supporters of Jerry Rawlings have argued that his 'positive defiance' speech in Kumasi and Ho is nothing less than the right of Rawlings to exercise his democratic rights, and that people should not read more than what was said. This view is echoed by Rawlings himself. On the opposing side, there are two views. One view is that Rawlings is a dangerous demagogue and that his views should be closely monitored. They would add that Rawlings made the same speeches during the Liman's government and eventually overthrew the PNP government. Others are of the view that Rawlings should be ignored and that he does not deserve the attention he gets. There are four main reasons why Rawlings actions and views should not be ignored. First Rawlings is not an ordinary person. He usurped power in December 1981, and for almost two decades clinged on to power until through combined mass movement of our people, he was compelled to introduce elections and rigged them on two occasions until Ghanaians had enough and threw him and his lackeys out of power in December 2000. Secondly Rawlings and the P/NDC government for two decades reorganised the society, dominated the state security and all facets of Ghanaian life to the benefit of themselves. Thousands of P/NDC supporters, officials and what have you benefited from the Rawlings regime and became instant billionaires. Thousands of them still dominate the state structures. The P/NDC might have lost power in December 2000, but some of structures that Rawlings and Co built are still intact. In the security services and the military P/NDC recruited and promoted many people who owe allegiance to them. There is still this reserve power that Rawlings will seek to use at no qualms at the least given opportunity. There is nothing that guarantees his security than being in control. Thirdly, we should not forget that Rawlings before the coup of 31st December 1981 made the same speeches against the Liman government. He threatened them with positive defiance. He combed the universities making fiery speeches and displaying balls of kenkey and blamed the PNP government of all malaise in the Ghanaian society. And look at what happened. He led a coup and installed himself in power for two decades. Fourthly, we should not forget that the government that we have in power is a weak one. It has negated on its promises. It is blindly following the policies of the IMF that the P/NDC implemented and carrying them to the ridiculous extends of wanting to privatise water. There is mass dissatisfaction with the NPP government and the NPP is not helping much by lack of direction of government and the economy. It is precisely in these circumstances that bred people like Jerry Rawlings. Rawlings did not just happened to come to power in 1981, because he simply made a coup. There was mass dissatisfaction with the Liman government and Rawlings exploited on these difficulties to usurped power. And that is why all democrats or progressive forces must ensured that Rawlings or similar characters of his mould do not use the difficulties in the country to take power and destroyed what ever democratic opening that currently exist. We do not want to waste another 20 years to get rip of a usurper and that is why what Rawlings is doing and saying should be our concern. Let me know come into the concrete issues that Jerry Rawlings has raised. This is not to keep the agenda of Rawlings in the public psychic, but to contribute to demystify the man. It is important that for so many people Rawlings will remain their god, and it is not these people that my contribution is addressing. My contribution is addressing the conscience of the mass of our people, through whose efforts that cankerous P/NDC regime was finally dismissed from power. The P/NDC is hibernating, and will do what they can to come to power. Taking into account the weaknesses of the NPP and the lack of clear alternative to the NPP, we should not discount that the P/NDC could become a danger once more to Ghanaians. And that is why all people of different political persuasions must come together to expose Rawlings and his P/NDC. Let me now come to the interview that Rawlings gave to the Weekly Insight. He cautioned the NDC to be “wary of false prophets who are being sponsored by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to infiltrate and divide their ranks”. He continues “They will come with their sugar-coated words and pretend to be our comrades and friends but we will always be able to identify them as the traitors they have always been.” I do not know who are the traitors he is referring to. Is it because Dr. Kwesi Botchway has declared his intentions to contest in the NDC to stand for President in 2004? I am not interested in what happens in the NDC, but it is the language of Rawlings that is worrying. Dr. Kwesi Botchway was the chief architect of his IMF/World Bank wholesale policies that have destroyed Ghana beyond recognition. The fight between Kwesi Botchway and Rawlings is fight between who will serve foreign interest and maintain their personal interest better. It is important however to note that by using words like “traitors” Rawlings have not changed in anyway. Anybody that he perceived to be against him is regarded as a traitor and therefore deserves probably death. This is what he did throughout his two decades of misrule in Ghana. That is precisely why we should watch out and ensure that the likes of Rawlings do not come an inch near power ever again in Ghana. If Rawlings or any of his lackeys ever get power again, they will further destroy the country beyond recognition. Human rights will be violated and he did throughout his regime. In the same interview he quoted as saying again “I still believe that the NPP is the worse government we have had since independence and I will say that over and over again”. Let us also say to Rawlings over and over again, that the P/NDC government was the worst form of government that the country had ever known, including the British rule. PNDC totally destroyed the country. Let us look in the area of human rights. Hundreds of people went missing. Others were picked up and slaughtered under false pretences of planning coups. We should ask Rawlings. What happened to Kwame Agyeman, Cpl Jiwal, Sergent Awal and the so many innocent young lives? Can Rawlings tell us any government in the nation's history that killed the number of people that he did? Can Rawlings tell us any regime in the nation's history that hounded people outside the country? For the two decades that Rawlings held sway, he and his security forces murdered people in cold blood. They were never offered any trial. They were picked up at midnight and killed. Rawlings never bothered about their families, the wives and children that they left behind. And what was the purpose of all these killings for? To me, it was wanton waste of life. Life is sacrilege and should not taken as Rawlings took it. In the economy the P/NDC performed abysmally. He left a bankrupt country, with $6 million debt. Rawlings used to decry during the Liman days that our hospital were graveyards where people went to await for their deaths. By the times Rawlings left, our people were not going to the hospital to await their deaths. They had no money. He introduced the cash and carry system in our hospitals and our people just died at their homes. They dared not go to hospital, since if they die, their families will be asked to pay before they take their bodies for burial. Is that something that Rawlings is proud? Before Rawlings took over and I am not saying things were perfect, but at least doctors and nurses uses not ask patients to pay bribes before they were treated. What about our educational system? In the drive of the P/NDC to dominate us forever, they introduced a moribund educational system. They ensured that there were no resources going to the schools. No books. Education also be became a privilege and not a right to be bought by those who had money. By the time Rawlings left, he had rolled back the attempts that were made by Kwame Nkrumah through compulsory primary education to develop Ghana. What about the labour front? Has Rawlings so forgotten the thousands of workers that he retrenched? Has he forgotten that he sacked thousands of workers in Tema, Tarkwa Mines, GBC and so on? He used divide and rule tactics to divide the labour front and destroyed the labour movement. We should not forget and also remind Rawlings and his P/NDC that it was they that exasperated tribalism in Ghana today. He also destroyed the progressive forces, those forces that were very instrumental in fighting for his human rights when the Liman administration had the security forces following him. Moreover, can Rawlings forget that it is his regime that brought about massive poverty and corruption in this country? He should be reminded that when he took over the country the exchange rate was 2.75 cedis to a dollar and when he left it was over 7,000 to a dollar. The minimum wage was so unrealistic and therefore contributed to the massive poverty that we are experiencing today. Also we need to remind Rawlings that in late 1982 when he begun trying to implement wholesales the IMF/World Bank policies without any debate, we warned him of the dangers. And what did he do to some of us? He locked and eventually killed some of us and those of us who were lucky fled the country before the end of 1982. It is the same policies that have brought about the massive poverty that he is blaming the NPP government for. The NPP government has done nothing except following the P/NDC as far as the economy management is concerned. The difference between the NPP and the P/NDC is that at least NPP was elected by the people and we have ourselves to blame for the NPP mistakes. On the contrary Rawlings and his associates imposed themselves on Ghanaians, implemented policies that has brought Ghana to its knees. It is also important that when Rawlings was in power he brought about the culture of silence. It was during his regime that nobody could open his or her mouth. The fact that it was during his government that we won some democratic rights for example publishing of independent newspapers, should not mean that as a benevolent dictator he willed it to us. There were fierce struggles by our people and coupled with international pressure Rawlings was forced to concede and open the country to some amount of democracy. Had he not done so it is possible that he would not have been alive today. The people were so fed up with him that they would have gone to any extent get rid of him. Can Rawlings tell us why he made sure that transitional provisions were inserted into the Constitution at the last minute to ensure that he goes unpunished for the crimes he has committed against the people? Rawlings also made comments on the National Reconciliation Commission. He says, “For those who think that the work of the Commission will embarrass me and the governments that I led, I would advise them to be patient. Some of what will come out at the Commission will shock everybody. May people will know for the very first time how some prominent people in all governments did terrible things under the guise of democracy.” Let us hope that all those who were wronged by the P/NDC will go to the Commission and tell their tales. It is rather unfortunate that for all those people that Rawlings killed will not be around to tell their tales. It is important that people take a stand against what Rawlings and the P/NDC want to do to this country. In this stand, we must distinguish between the genuine people in the NDC who want change and probably still have confidence in Rawlings, and the those in the NDC who will do everything to protect Rawlings, because if Rawlings is exposed, they would be exposed also. For the genuine NDC cadres who want a better tomorrow, I will advice them that there are other progressives forces for example the PNC and the CPP parties that they could join and make a contribution. The NDC cannot be tool for change. It is started on false pretences and having done so can never be an instrument of change. It is the most disaster that has ever happened to our country and the sooner people get out of the sinking ship the better. As for the NPP they will continue to implement their pro foreign policies. They simply do not understand that they can negotiate with the IMF/World Bank on patriotic lines. They think that the more they said “YES SIR”, the more foreign aid will flow. It is time for progressive forces to offer genuine alternatives to both the NPP and the NDC. In this strive, we should seek to distance ourselves from the NDC as much as possible. If the NPP does well in some areas, we should give them their due. We should remember that though in terms of economy policies the two parties are the same, they are different. The NDC has blood in its hands, and the NPP has not got blood in it hands. And that is why the NPP can never be the worst government since independence. The worst government has been Jerry Rawlings P/NDC.

Nyeya Yen
Nyeya Yen, © 2002

The author has 10 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: NyeyaYen

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