Putting ex-President Jerry Rawlings and for leaders in a very Brief
Histo-Political Context
                            by A.B. Assensoh

Many thanks to Professor Falola (Toyin) for this very useful forum,
apart from a few personalized submissions that make one a bit
uncomfortable. Yet, even such few out-of-line submissions do
demonstrate democratic discussions at work in a democratic society
(USA), where we do not get easily arrested and detained without trial
for merely expressing our intellectual views, no matter how
outrageous the views happened to be viewed by others. In fact, when I
disagree with some people, I still like to know (or read) what they
say (or write) because, as my late Dad used to say, we can even learn
from a crazy person how not to behave in a crazy manner!

Most certainly, I almost laughed my head off when I read Obi's
response (No. 921), with its epithets of  "pot-bellied",
"dark-goggles" politicians or soldiers in Nigeria; as we know,
sycophants (including scholars or intellectuals) have served most of
these unappreciated Nigerian leaders, often writing speeches for
them. Even in Ghanaian politics, I often do comparative analysis
instead of looking at one political leader in isolation. For example,
since I suffered (as a Journalist) in I.K. Acheampong's regime (with
arrest and detention without trial), many friends thought that I
would rush to Ghana to seek a political appointment when then
Flt.-Lt. Jerry Rawlings took power and installed his first AFRC and,
later, PNDC regimes. I never did so because -- like now Dr. (General)
Yakubu Gowon -- I was determined to return to college and learn more
in order to understand the true nature of power, dictatorship and,
also, those who exercised both. The end-result was earning degrees in
political science and history, thanks to friends from Ghana and
outside Ghana who encouraged me to do so!

In terms of ex-President Rawlings, my attitude toward whatever he
does is summed up by a very useful interview that, then, incoming
President John A. Kufuor gave to "Financial Times" of London (on page
2): he said that he wanted outgoing President Rawlings to be
respected and treated the same way (as an elder statesman) as he
(President Kufuor) would like to be treated when he is out of office.
It was a majestic and a noble statement! Also, that was why, in a
published article later, I suggested (although I am an Ashanti like
President Kufuor) that ex-President Rawlings should be given "a
modicum of respect" as an ex-President of Ghana and given the freedom
to exercise his freedom of speech. Several critics of the
ex-President, in fact including a former member of Parliament from
Ghana, contacted me by phone, e-mail, letters, etc. to condemn me for
writing that. "Don't you know what Rawlings' regime did to the
murdered Judges..." I was reminded!

Of course, all Ghanaians remember the sad or unfortuante murders of
the Judges and the retired soldier as well as other sad events in
Ghana during, before and after the Rawlings regimes in the political
history of Ghana. Why do we, for example, forget the political
detentions of the era of the late President Kwame Nkrumah (Kwame
Desse-Adu's book, "Politics of Political Detentions" in Ghana sums
that up aptly). No regime in Ghana has been 100% free of
inappropriate political behaviour. Yet, I still urge that, in
histo-political parlance, almost all Ghanaian leaders of the past and
present (maybe, apart from I.K. Acheampong and his collaborators)
should be accorded some respect. Af ter all, they did try to do
something useful for Ghana in varied ways. Of course, I can be
crucified for saying so but, as a historian, that is how I feel.

I have, sadly, heard some people from our own Ghana, who want certain
Ghanaian politicians to be arrested and summarily murdered for past
deeds or misdeeds. I am only glad that, under present circumstances,
President Kufuor, as a lawyer by training and practice, has not
allowed extra-judicial measures (or killings) as part of his policy
orientation. Above all, no matter what anyone says, we thank God that
there is still a place called Ghana that many of us can as well
return to or call home in bona fide terms. Am I saying so because
either I or a family member never suffered from a capricious regime
in Ghana in the past? That is not so because I, as mentioned before,
still remember my own arrest and detention, by armed soldiers, simply
because I worked for a newspaper ("The Pioneer") that the Acheampong
regime had closed and prohibited from publishing! Additionally, I
still remember how some close friends also suffered indignities under
military dicatorships of varied degrees in Ghana!

In the end, I will still say this: Long live Ghana and -- as the old
Ghana national Anthem underscored -- we should lift high the flag of