KOMLA DUMOR (KD): We are here at the home of former President of Ghana Flt Lt Jerry Rawlings. The man who has led this country for several years. In 1998 he played host to another US President, the 42nd, Bill Clinton. At that time half a million people flooded the streets just to see the US President and this man. He’s been kind enough to invite us to his home and talk about the impending visit of Barack Obama. Thank you very much for being with us Mr President.
Jerry John Rawlings (JJR): You’re welcome.
KD: I’ve been on the streets of Accra and there is some interesting excitement. Obviously the first Black American President to visit Sub-Saharan Africa but there is a distinctly different feel. Do you get that sense that there is less excitement compared to when you were President when Bill Clinton came here?
JJR: It should be an easy answer but I think there is a lot more excitement, not just here but all over the whole world and we feel the same here. But I think there is a problem between the people and the government so this appears to have affected the energy level to some extent…the political energy level.
KD: You think people are not happy with the government so they are not showing enthusiasm for Barack Obama?
JJR: People who are trying to analyse the response think that he may not get the same level of exciting response that Clinton got. But in fact I think that if it were to be raining people will defy the rain to receive him at a place like the Black Star Square [Independence Square]. But I understand because of the rain it’s best to use other spaces so he doesn’t have to be disturbed by the rain.
KD: What do you really believe?
JJR: You know what? As a Ghanaian I welcome him not just for the spirit of this country but I think the man is a welcome phenomenon globally because there has been a very serious drawback in terms of international political morality preceding his emergence and quite frankly I think his emergence clearly is on account of what a charismatic, brilliant and ethical person he is but it’s also a serious indictment of the regime that preceded him. I am saying that the regime that preceded him…in the sense that the unipolar leadership that was provided by Tony Blair and Bush did a lot of damage to the culture of democracy in various places and especially in Africa. South America was able to escape some of it…some pockets of South America but there were those in Africa who actually took advantage of what I call political immorality to become very dictatorial, extremely corrupt, autocratic, etc. So I am saying that even though Ghana was being touted because of our performance, Ghana became a fine country to capture as a country that had made successful economic progress, a country that had given credence to Western multi-party democracy. So we became in a way a captive state for both Tony Blair and Bush to be used as an example of a democratic country. As a good example for the rest of Africa.
KD: What about now, Barack Obama says he’s here because of Ghana’s democracy?
JJR: Of course. He is not a victim of the picture that was drawn by the international media as well as Western countries but the point is that there is a reality. There are two realities. An electoral process, no matter how genuine does not necessarily correspond to a democratic culture or democratic governance. I am saying that this country under the last regime suffered a serious setback but the regime was whitewashed persistently by the Western powers and the Western media. And the people fought hard. In 2004 the election was actually stolen…okay…even though the world pretended that this was not the case. Because the agenda of the Western powers could not suffer a setback with just one regime coming in for only a four-year term so they had to allow an additional four-year term. By the end of the eighth year the people said enough was enough. No matter what they were not going to take it. We all sit here saying there was a 40,000 margin. There was no such thing. The government was seriously rejected. The Western powers knew it, warned Kufuor and his administration that time is up, don’t try to mess around with the figures as others are doing. Kufuor’s regime ignored it. The world knows it but it equally ignored it. It took Nigeria to send General Muktar down to Ghana to warn Kufuor. Don’t mess around with what is going on in Ghana with the figures because it might blow up and if it blows up there might be the domino effect in West Africa so please just hand over and allow the correct figures and let’s have some peace in this country. So in effect what I am saying is that Obama coming to Ghana may not just be an acknowledgment of what appears to be a splendid example of a transitional multi-party at work in Ghana. Much as I appreciate that, much as we welcome that we want him to look a little deeper, to go below the picture that has been drawn. Because if we do not right the injustices of the past it will hound us and quite frankly I am not too sure we will be able to sustain it. In effect in Africa or in some part of Africa you either have a guilty or not guilty government.
KD: Will you tell Mr Obama these things when you meet him?
JJR: I was just telling some body that if I had the chance I will tell him, stay the course but please Mr President we need help to undo the damage that was done under the previous unipolar leadership.
KD: You will be sitting with the former President, Mr John Kufuor who indeed you are criticising and the current President at the same table. I get the sense that it may not be as cordial as it is right now.
JJR: Oh…we will say it in very polite language. Because I want to seek a return of the culture of democracy in this country. And under the leadership of Professor Mills I have no doubt in my mind that we will see the return of true law and order, true governance, integrity, transparency returning back to this country.
KD: And that’s Ghana’s former President Rawlings speaking about the visit of the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama to Ghana.
PART TWO (RADIO)
KD: President Obama arrives in Ghana. It’s a historic feeling. How are you feeling about this?
JJR: I feel good about it. I am not the only one here in Ghana who is sitting here feeling good about the emergence of Obama. Obama’s emergence is something that has been sought after most of all by Americans. The international community has been looking for…there’s been a quest for a restoration of political morality and this is what he represents. Because we’ve gone through a nasty history…in fact Pope John Paul called it the savagery of capitalism that was running side by side with what appeared to be a unipolar leadership that was not going down well. I am saying that political power became purchasable. Anybody could buy political power with money. Political power was losing its dignity, its credentials in terms of integrity. I watched with interest when Dick Cheney, when he was Defence Secretary said America’s interests supersedes, overrides issues of morality. I watched it. I was surprised. And when he became Vice President it did not surprise me that the world went through that sort of decline on account of their attempt to assert their leadership over the globe.
KD: Can Obama do that? Or does he represent a complete change in your view?
JJR: That’s precisely what the man represents and that for me is the beauty of it. That we take close to the precipice we are going to be saved by America itself…America’s own quest to cleanse herself…America’s own quest to give the best of herself. In effect this man represents the best of America.
KD: He’s coming’s to Ghana. The reason why he’s chosen Ghana is almost according to what you said: he says Ghana represents the best of Africa, Ghana’s democracy is flourishing, its electoral system is good, that is why he’s here. You’ve been a president before. Can you give us an insight into just how true that is?
JJR: It is very true because of the transitions that appear to have taken place through electoral processes…okay…the supposed will of the people. But the point is there were undercurrents of other activities that were not known to the outside world. The 2004 election was stolen. I keep saying it and we all know it here but the Western powers suppressed it because they wanted it. Because we stayed in office for almost 18 years from a revolutionary period, which was very democratic into a constitutional rule. But they keep referring to unconstitutional rule as now the democratic rule. In fact the democratic rule was at its height during the period when we had non constitutional government but nonetheless after eighteen years I think the people wanted a change and the change came out to be the multiparty democracy that we had organised and the country saw the worst ever corruption in the history of this country. Not just that; some of the human right violations were all suppressed by the Western media and some of these Western powers under the leadership of Tony Blair and Bush. That is why I am saying that we are not the only ones that…does it surprise you for instance that Chavez and a few other progressive countries emerged in South America. It was in direct…it was in opposition to the global trend, which Africa should also have had because the world had grown tired of the autocratic trend.
KD: When you talk of Ghana’s democracy, I have spoken to Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Prize Laureate and Mo Ibrahim of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. All of them keep saying that Ghana’s democracy works. Are you saying anything different?
JJR: Because they have no idea that the electoral process…the picture that took place in let’s say in 2008 for instance took a lot of work, in spite of their attempt to steal it. You know Professor Mills should have won by close to 65 to 70 per cent but this has been suppressed. That is why we went almost two to three rounds…because they were persisting in trying to steal. That is why we went for a third round. The third round where they lost miserably was a true reflection of the result that had been taking place earlier.
KD: But isn’t that democracy Mr President?
JJR: No! No! No! Call it an electoral victory…it does not necessarily represent good governance or rule of law and democracy. You people must wake up! You have misapplied the terms of the word democracy. We believe in democracy just as it happens in America, in UK, etc, France, etc where people are empowered and George Bush, Tony Blair etc cannot get away with one-tenth of the things that some of us get away with in Africa. Kufuor got away with it and yet we call it democracy? So democracy in effect means you can do whatever you want, trample on the people, kill, violate etc lies, steal and then at the end of the fourth year when you get pushed out and nobody is put before the law. You virtually drive a lawless situation…just because you get pushed out by the solid will of the people and in a subtle way assisted not by Western powers, much as they tried. I’m saying it took Nigeria this time round to warn the Kufuor regime…don’t try it.
KD: The Nigeria that everyone says has a flawed democracy?
JJR: Precisely! I can understand. If they helped maybe they wanted to save their own necks as well. Because if Ghana blows up you know what’s going to happen to neighbouring countries as well.
KD: Are you going to speak to President Obama in such frank terms?
JJR: I will speak in such frank terms to anyone who wants to hear it. I have been saying it since I left office when it was quite clear that this was the agenda of this regime but it appeared the Western media wouldn’t carry it. I did a very lengthy interview, in fact very concise, very precise on this same issue with the CNN but it was suppressed. It was almost as if to say that the agenda is not to tell the true picture of what is going on in Ghana. Listen to me Chief. You know part of the problem with some of these our development partners is that whenever they see things are declining, decaying instead of holding such regimes in check, they seem unable to do so or they try their possible best and it just doesn’t work. So in effect the more they decline in autocratic rule, the killings etc the more frightful they become of leaving office, which is what we saw. And please go and look into the statistics of what they’ve done, what we are running into. I mean it is just mind blowing and yet I think the Western powers feel. When you talk about democracy, you are talking about the rule of law, talking about freedom, justice, etc. As I sit here right now I will tell President Obama if he wants to know that we won the freedom but not the justice. In a way I think this is what is affecting the energy.
KD: What do you want from President Obama?
JJR: I want him to stay the course and assist and bring pressure to bear on countries in a manner that will help us restore the culture of democracy that we’ve almost lost in certain parts. The very loss that the world appears not to know about. I am saying that it’s happened in several others places. Some by margin of five, minus seven etc. But somehow Ghana’s has been suppressed. Now we need to restore the value of democracy that was lost. And it’s not going to be easy because all we appear to have done is to have plucked out the leader, Kufuor. The corrupt machinery is still very much in place and instead of them feeling guilty enough or being weakened, the guilty forces are rather by the day gaining confidence and quite frankly this is what bothers me for our president.
KD: One last quick question. President Rawlings when Bill Clinton came here there was a lot of interaction with the ordinary people. People saw those large crowds around you and around President Clinton. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen when the first African American President comes to Ghana. Are you disappointed?
JJR: Aaahh so you are the one saying it. Thank God for saying it! And that is what…it might impress you to know that the Americans must have noticed…the man enjoys such a huge popularity that the internal political energy is low and we cannot afford not to have this man harnessed, marshal as much popularity as Clinton did and even more. There is something wrong with our domestic situation…the energy, the excitement because…let me put it in African way. When the first wrong or first sin is committed and it’s not dealt with by an institution, by a father, by a new government that is when the rot, the decay begins.
KD: So basically you are saying this government is not acting quickly enough.
JJR: Not only quickly enough but it’s not taking the appropriate actions against the sins that have been committed against this country. In other words or in any African civilised situation, should you leave home as a father and your son or your daughter has slapped your wife, his mother and you come back home and do not take appropriate action to rectify that situation, that’s when the moral decay will begin and that’s what is bothering me and I think that’s what’s bothering the nation. I think this nation has suffered under Kufuor’s corruption. We’ve never seen anything like it and yet it appears we have to be massaging his image.
KD: He’s going to set next to you and next to Presidents Mills and Obama. Will you speak to him?
JJR: For the sake of diplomacy and international whatever it is I will have to with difficulty smile.
KD: Mr President, thank you very much.
JJR: You are most welcome.