Today in History, exactly 41 years ago on May 15, 1979, Flt. Lt Jerry John Rawlings was arrested and imprisoned after he led a group of junior Ghanaian army officers in an attempted coup d’état against the military government led by General Fred Akuffo.
On May 15, 1979, less than five weeks before the national elections, the then- Flt. Lt Jerry John Rawlings led a group of junior Ghanaian army officers in an attempted overthrow of the military government of General Fred Akuffo and the Supreme Military Council.
On the morning of the day of the coup d’état, there was exchange of fire between the coup plotters and officers of the Supreme Military Council.
It took the effort and bravery of one senior military officer, Major General Odartey Willington to get to the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) to announce that the attempted coup by junior officers of the force had been foiled.
He, Major-General Odartey Willington, one Major Sulemana, other military officers who embarked on the said action at the GBC were subsequently rewarded by the government and Rawlings and the junior officers arrested for trial.
Rawlings, who insisted that he should be held responsible for the coup, was imprisoned and court-martialed.
During the court martial, Rawlings justified his actions by claiming that official corruption had eroded public confidence in the government and had tarnished the image of the armed forces. Rawlings also charged that Syrian and Lebanese businessmen living in Ghana had gained control of the country’s economy at the expense of the African majority.
The trial only served to make Flt. Lt Jerry John Rawlings popular in Ghana’s Political scene. On June 4 (The June 4 Revolution, otherwise known as June 4th Uprising), Flt. Lt Jerry John Rawlings was broken out of jail by soldiers sympathetic to his politics, he then led a rebellion of the military and civilians against General Fred Akuffo.
The Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) was established under his leadership, promising to clean-up Ghana of corruption and injustice.