Ghana prepares to bury former President Jerry Rawlings

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The Late Former President Jerry John Rawlings. Courtesy.

As Ghana prepares for the funeral of former president Jerry Rawlings, the two main political parties are squabbling over his legacy.

Behind the scenes, Rawlings’ family, traditional chiefs, and political figures have been at odds over the legacy of the former air force flight lieutenant, who twice overthrew governments but was widely seen by the poor as their champion.

The former president died in November at the age of 73 and his funeral was initially scheduled for December 23 but was postponed, due to what the foreign ministry called “unforeseen circumstances”.

It will now take place in the capital Accra on Wednesday.

Days ahead of the funeral ceremony, which will be held in Independence Square, symbol of Ghana’s victory over colonial Britain, the square and adjacent avenue were already swarming with soldiers.

“They’re afraid there’s going to be trouble,” said Esther Amoo, a local business owner, as she stood watching the troops train for the ceremony.

“Everyone wants to get their hands on our former president. Since JJ died, it’s a mess everywhere!” she added.

After Rawlings died on November 12 the organization of the funeral became a highly coveted political trophy, even as the country was in full presidential election swing.

His status as the former head of state gives him the right to a state funeral, but the National Democratic Congress (NDC), a party he founded and which has now gone into opposition, demanded that it be involved in organizing it.