As citizens in Ghana picked the country’s next president this week, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), chair of the House Financial Services Committee, recalled the impact of former President Jerry Rawlings, who died on Nov. 12 at the age of 73.
“President Jerry Rawlings played a critical role in the history of Ghana, leading the country for twenty years and overseeing its transition to a stable, multiparty democracy,” Waters said in a statement. “President Rawlings was democratically elected in 1992 and again in 1996 and presided over numerous economic and political reforms. When his term in office ended in 2001 under the Ghanaian constitution, he retired and transferred power to his elected successor, a former political rival, thus reinforcing democratic traditions in Ghana.”
Waters said Rawlings counted as an outspoken advocate of African unity who served numerous roles as an African statesman and diplomat.
He was appointed to serve as the first International Year of Volunteers 2001 Eminent Person by then-United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, attending international conferences and events to promote volunteerism and to help raise the profile of volunteers working for peace and development around the world. In October 2010, the African Union appointed him to serve as envoy to Somalia.
“As a leading congressional advocate of debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries and a supporter of the Jubilee movement, I am especially proud of President Rawlings’ advocacy for African nations to have their international debts canceled,” Waters said. “Debt relief was critical to free more than 35 of the world’s poorest countries — including Ghana — from the burdens of international debts and enable them to invest their resources in health, education, poverty reduction, and infrastructure.
“President Jerry Rawlings will always be remembered as a passionate advocate for the people of Ghana and their sisters and brothers throughout the African continent,” she said. “It is my sincere hope that his family, including his wife Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, friends and fellow Africans will be comforted by the memory of his love for them and for the African people.”