Jerry Rawlings, Ghana’s former president who died recently from covid-19– related complications at age 73, was renowned as a revolutionary pan-Africanist. He championed anti-imperialism and democracy in the West African nation.
Rawlings also had ties to Black American civil rights luminaries including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
Here are seven things about Rawlings, his relations with Farrakhan and his role in promoting dual citizenship for African Americans
As the president of Ghana, Rawlings passed legislation to grant an indefinite residence permit for Americans of African descent. He stood next to President Bill Clinton at a Washington, D.C. press conference in 1999 and promised to open up the West African country to African-Americans who wanted to settle there.
“Is there any reason why you should not have the right to enjoy the citizenship of where you come from?” Rawlings asked reporters.
Rawlings initiated heritage tourism based on the trans-Atlantic slave trade and pan-Africanism, culminating in the “Year of the Return.” In 2019, many African Americans visited Ghana and some relocated back to the country to reconnect with their African roots.
During a visit to Chicago, Rawlings likened Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan, organizer of the 1995 Million Man March in Washington, D.C., to the legendary Italian astronomer Galileo who was persecuted in his time for his views of the world.
In 1986, Rawlings welcomed Farrakhan to Ghana despite warnings from the White House administration at the time that Farrakhan was a communist passing as a Muslim cleric. In a speech honoring the death of Rawlings, Farrakhan detailed how the former Ghana president had welcomed him and his entourage and even offered them security.
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“We shall never forget this man and the love that he had in his heart for Africa, for justice, for truth. Long live the memory of our great brother, long live Ghana and African liberation,” Farrakhan said.
In October 1994, Minister Farrakhan led 2,000 Black people from the U.S. to Accra, Ghana for the Nation of Islam’s first International Saviours’ Day. Ghanaian President Rawlings officially opened and closed the five-day convention.
Rawlings dampened enthusiasm for dual citizenship by asking at the end of the press conference with Clinton that those who take up the offer agree to be charged and tried in the country’s judicial system as Ghanaians with no interference from the U.S. government.
“The laws of my country will take their course without the American government attempting to intervene to say, ‘This is a citizen of my country,'” he said.
Rawlings called Trump out for the assassination of Iranian generals, for using “vulgar insults” toward women and for “perpetually lying, even in office”.