‘He was asked to refund $4,000’: Why Rawlings was angry ahead of his first coup plot

Source The Ghana Report|Edwin Appiah

A former Squadron commander who was nearly killed during the June 4th uprising has given details of why Flt. Lt Jerry Rawlings harbored resentment leading to his first coup attempt.

According to Major (Rtd) Ibrahim Rida, Flt. Lt Rawlings felt maltreated by his superiors after he was asked to refund some $4,000 he had misapplied.

The retired soldier was speaking ahead of the release of a JoyNews documentary ‘Scars of the revolution’ which unravels atrocities before and during the June 4th uprising led by a junior rank in the military, Jerry John Rawlings.

Before that coup which overthrew the Supreme Military Council II, the young charismatic soldier had began sowing seeds of discord among the soldiers, Ibrahim Rida said.

Rawlings had grown increasingly resentful at the military hierarchy.

Explaining one instance of some of the underlying causes of his anger, the retired Rida said the military surcharged Rawlings for spending monies he ought to have returned to his superiors.

It was money given to him to cover expenses he was expected to incur while on a 4-month training course in Pakistan.

But unknown to the military, the course had been canceled and Rawlings had to return $4,000 in allowances, Ibrahim Rida told JoyNews host of UpFront, Raymond Acquah.

“He took the money and went round galavanting in Europe” the former Squadron commander claimed and referred to a Military Service report detailing the incident.

The Military Command then began deducting the monies from his salary, he said.

Maj. (Rtd) Rida said Rawlings began pitching the junior ranks against his seniors, complaining of maltreatment and “oppression.”

“He told us that the military was punishing him”, he retired soldier said.

On May 15, 1979, Jerry Rawlings tried to mobilize his colleagues in the junior ranks to mutiny.

He struggled to get support. “At one time, he gathered Airforce troops”, trying to rally them up against the government. “It did not work”, Maj (Rtd) Rida said.

He was finally arrested at the Air Force station where he was engaged in a shoot out against some soldiers.

The military found a speech he had prepared which Ibrahim Rida said authorities “could not make a head or tail of it.”

Rawlings was angry at what he saw as the domination of foreigners in Ghana’s economy, the former senior military officer said.

Facing prosecution and deadly charges, Flt. Lt. Rawlings begged for his life during interrogation by a committee while in military custody.

“He pleaded that he should not be killed,” Ibrahim Rida recalled.

The former soldier described as a publicity stunt, Rawlings statement in court taking personal responsibility for the attempted overthrow and asking that his men should be freed.

That statement by Rawlings is believed to have endeared him to the public and led to the transformation of the image of Rawlings from a failed coup plotter into a public hero.

On June 4th, junior officers of the military stormed Rawlings cell and freed him to lead the June 4th ‘revolution’.

Other junior ranks including Boakye Gyan had staged a coup and picked Rawlings as their leader and face of the new military junta.

The former Squadron leader said he was surprised the coup succeeded because several days before the event, military intelligence had picked up information about seven persons plotting the overthrow of the government.

They never acted on the intelligence, he said and wondered.

Soon, several senior military officers became endangered species, rounded up after the rebelling junior ranks succeeded and installed Jerry Rawlings as the leader of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council.

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