1st Edition

Revolution and Democracy in Ghana The Politics of Jerry John Rawlings

By Jeffrey Haynes Copyright 2023
    228 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book analyses Flight-Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings’ plans for radical democratisation in Ghana, involving ordinary people directly in the country’s political and economic decision-making processes.

    Rawlings came to power in Ghana in late 1981 determined to restructure the characteristics of Ghana's political and economic systems. Despite Rawlings’ aim to bring ordinary Ghanaians into the decision-making process, his regime was still heavily dependent on the support of the military and attempts at direct democracy ultimately ended in failure. Outside analysts have viewed his plans as one of Africa’s most draconian economic reform programmes. The book traces this turbulent period of Ghana’s history, showing Rawlings’ development from a fiery revolutionary to a democracy-supporting politician adept at winning elections. It investigates how, despite frequent coup attempts and the loss of most of its original civilian support base, the regime was able to remain in power, overseeing a halt to economic decline and a return to growth.

    Building on over thirty years of research, including contemporaneous interviews conducted by the author during Ghana’s ‘revolutionary’ period, this book will be of interest to researchers of African history and politics.

    1. Revolutionary populism and democracy in Ghana  2. The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council and ‘housecleaning’  3. Rawlings and populist revolution  4. ‘Popular power’ and authoritarian populism  5. Economic recovery and popular discontent  6. Return of multi-party democracy  7. Rawlings’ Presidency and Democratisation  8. Jerry John Rawlings: personal, political, and institutional legacies


    Jeffrey Haynes is Emeritus Professor at London Metropolitan University, UK, where he was formerly Associate Dean (Research) and Head of the School of Social Sciences

    "Although the legacy of Flt.-Lt Jerry Rawlings continues to be hotly debated inside Ghana, little that is new and of substance has been written about his time in office, and this is especially true of the decade prior to the return to electoral democracy in 1992. Haynes conducted many interviews with key protagonists in the 1980-90s. In this much-needed book, he combines some of this earlier research with more recent interviews and desk research to provide a thorough re-appraisal of Rawlings' years in office and his legacy today."

    Paul Nugent, Professor of Comparative African History, University of Edinburgh, UK

    "Based on an impressive range of interviews and other primary sources spanning several decades, Jeffrey Haynes provides a compelling account of one of Ghana’s most divisive historical figures—Jerry Rawlings. His book is essential reading for scholars interested in how a populist, military leader spearheaded reforms that transformed Ghana into one of Africa’s most successful multi-party democracies."

    Dr Danielle Resnick, David M. Rubenstein Fellow, Global Economy and Development Program, Brookings Institution, Washington DC, USA)

    "Haynes outlines brilliantly how much the legacy of Jerry Rawlings' initially revolutionary populism has influenced events in Ghana. Haynes approaches his controversial subject with objectivity and sensitivity. By making use of a wealth of archival sources and interviews, he provides a clear-eyed and nuanced account of the multi-layered, contradictory, and dynamic relationship between Rawlings, populism, authoritarianism and multiparty democracy in Ghana."

    Dr. Aurel Croissant, Professor of Political Science, Heidelberg University, Germany

    "One of the most interesting questions about the progress of democracy in sub-Saharan Africa is how Ghana, an initially coup-prone country that experienced long-periods of authoritarian rule, emerged as one of the continent's leading lights following the reintroduction of multiparty politics in the 1990s. Haynes' book shines important new light on this question through the lens of Jerry Rawlings and the legacy of his time in office. These insights make Revolutionary Populism and Democracy in Ghana essential reading not only for those who are interested in the history of this fascinating West Africa country, but also for students of democratisation in Africa and beyond."

    Dr. Nic Cheeseman, Professor of Democracy and the Director of the Centre for Elections, Democracy, Accountability and Representation (CEDAR), University of Birmingham, UK

    "There certainly was a gap in understanding the role populism played in Ghana's rebirth of constitutional rule. The influence of revolutionary populism on laying the foundation of Ghana's Fourth Republic is now evident in this excellent book. Any critical examination of the successes and failures of electoral politics in contemporary Ghana will be incomplete without understanding the structures and foundation blocks laid by JJ Rawlings and his young revolutionaries in the 1980s. Jeffrey Haynes's book will take its place among a select few essential texts explaining grassroots politics as conceived by the architects, which allowed several non-elite groups to participate in everyday politics. This book provides a balanced evaluation of revolutionary populism in Ghana."

    Associate Professor George M. Bob-Milliar, PhD, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana

    "Revolution and Democracy in Ghana: The Politics of Jerry Rawlings is a welcome reinterpretation of Rawlings' role and position in Ghana's history. An enigmatic figure who traversed the extremities of violent, bloody revolution, Rawlings led Ghana through its economic and political collapse and through sheer managerial skills and savvy leadership left an abiding legacy of ever deepening and strengthened democratic ethos. Revolution and Democracy in Ghana is well researched and highly readable. It presents an impressive analysis of the ebbs and flows of Rawlings' position in contemporary Ghanaian politics in a manner that should appeal to policymakers, students and teachers. Jeff Haynes presents a sympathetic but objective analysis of this larger than life figure and his contributions in transforming Ghana."

    Professor Kwesi Aning, Head of the Department of Research, Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, Accra, Ghana

    "The 1980s can be described as a decade of Jerry Rawlings, a period when he proved to be a revolutionary. Despite a volatile international political scene marked by East-West polarization and a worsening domestic economy, Rawlings piloted the political aircraft of Ghana through turbulence and carefully landed the country as a liberal democracy in 1992. Post-democratisation events, including peaceful power alternations, economic revival and political stability cannot be detached from his able leadership. Haynes' book is a must-read primer for politicians, traditional authorities, civil society activists, researchers, students and teachers. All who seek to understand the power of the ‘revolutionary era’ should grab a copy without hesitation and delay."

    Professor Emmanuel Debrah, Department of Political Science and Director of the Legon Center for International Affairs and Diplomacy, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana

    "Haynes skillfully delves into the complex conditions that led a group of radical Ghanaians in the 1980s to imagine alternative forms of revolutionary populist governance. Through incisive political analysis the work then examines the ways the nation was redrawn as a quintessential democratic neoliberal security state. This book is a must read not only for those interested in the political history of Ghana but for anyone who wants to understand how the postcolonial world order emerged during the cold war."

    Jesse Weaver Shipley John D. Willard Professor of African and African American Studies and Oratory, Dartmouth College, USA