The Root Interview: The Former President of Ghana Speaks Bluntly
Jerry Rawlings says he’s disappointed in many African leaders and in the failure of African countries to work together more closely.
JR: It's not fair to say nothing new, but even if it was nothing new, it was coming from the right person. He was a man with a sense of dignity; he was a man who has restored international morality back into politics; he has restored the international morality that Tony Blair and Bush destroyed. He managed to bring it back by virtue of his stature, ... his beliefs, his sense of ethics and things like that. He believed in the might of right, while the other people believed in the right of might.
TR:You came to power twice through coups. Today, would you have done things differently?
JR: No. I would have done things exactly the way I did.
TR:So you think that sometimes coups are necessary when there are no other means to get change?
JR: So it seemed in those days. As to whether it's still applied today, this is what I cannot say. But in those days, I know it was a necessity.
TR:Do you miss being president?
JR: It was a very tiring job for me.
TR:You did it twice...
JR: Yes, I had to come back again because if I hadn't, there would have had another explosion. I stood for elections because when I heard the messages from those multiparty characters [I thought] they would wind the clock back. So for me it was a very tiring job, really. Some people enjoy it, I did not.
TR: You did not, but you don't really seem to have retired...
JR: How can I retire? In Africa, it's difficult to retire! Because what I fought for has not changed. I mean, Jesus Christ taught us a lesson some 2,000 years ago, and we're still teaching the same thing. So it is with politics in Africa, I guess. So long as the nonsense continues, I will continue to speak out.
TR:Aren't you afraid of interfering with the action of your former vice-president and current Ghana President John Atta-Mills? That you might create confusion about who is the head of state?
JR: They may or they may not [be confused]. But I will because I did not come for my party or my president, I came for a principle.And so long as you step aside or you want to keep up with that principle, you will hear me. I will talk.
TR:Some report tensions between [current Ghana president] John Atta-Mills and you.
JR: Yes. To some extent, it's true because I keep telling him he has surrounded himself with people who shouldn't be there. He has surrounded himself with people who keep stabbing the party, and some of us, in the back. I keep warning him that if he does not change, if he does not improve, he will be a one-term president. He's not listening now, and by the time he starts listening, I think it's almost too late. People are disillusioned with him and the people around him.
Habibou Bangre is a writer lving in France.