On June 4, 1979, 44 years ago, a group of young military men led by Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings, compelled by the difficult and turbulent circumstances of the period and representing the angry mood of the people, took up arms and removed the leadership of the then Supreme Military Council II.
June 4 1979 had been preceded by the abortive May 15, 1979 uprising, also led by Flt Lt Rawlings, who subsequently became the Chairman of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), which ruled Ghana for three months, before handing power to a democratically elected civilian government.
Ghana was bent on its knees, the economy was in an inflationary spiral, the prices of goods and services mushroomed at an alarming rate and traders and middlemen were capitalizing on the situation by hoarding scarce essential commodities in order to exacerbate the skyrocketing of prices and skim off the offensive profits that came with it.
The Bretton Woods institutions described Ghana as a collapsed state and Ghanaians were helpless as the situation worsened. Events of May 15 coupled with the famous ‘Leave My Men Alone’ court address by Flt Lt Rawlings and justification for the attempted mutiny, would become the spark to light the anticipated revolutionary flame.
The tense political atmosphere in the country exhibited both in civilians and personnel in the barracks, coupled with a failed economy, was like a room filled with gas and all it took was a spark. The prison break and subsequent rise to power of the AFRC on June 4, 1979 was thus a culmination of deep-seated anger and discontent.
June 4, 1979 changed the face of politics in this country. President Rawlings and his government introduced a system of decentralisation that gradually devolved into the District Assembly concept, which is an integral part of the 4th Republic’s governance structure.
Aggressive policies were implemented to support traditional export industries such as cocoa and gold as well as the diversification of export content. Food security was priority with the institution of agricultural policies that gained global attention and notable mention by the World Bank’s Development Report of 1999-2000.
As we celebrate the 44th anniversary of this day, we remember all the gallant men who sacrificed their all to end the decade of decadence. This is a day to honour the souls of all who sacrificed their lives during the turbulent period. We also honour all the gallant heroes who have joined their maker during the past 44 years. Ayekoo gallant heroes for your patriotism.
In 2020, President Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings left this world, placing us all in a state of national mourning. However, the souls of this gallant warrior and many of his compatriots live on. On June 4, 2020 he had this poignant statement to make about June 4, 1979.
“We must be reminded that, we are a country borne out of difficult situations where some had to toil and shed their blood. The positive disruptive force and energy of June 4th was not a product of any political movement or action. The spontaneous eruption on that fateful day represented the unadulterated spirit of liberation that was collectively sought after, as a nation at the brink of collapse.
“Nothing more has signified or exemplified the patriotism and resilience of Ghanaians than in those difficult moments. Many were those who sacrificed their lives and livelihoods in order to bequeath to subsequent generations a more just society with equal opportunities for all, irrespective of their religion, tribe, ethnicity, political or educational status.
“We must never forget our past nor erase the memories of where we came from. Commemorations like this allow us to ponder, reflect and re-examine ourselves – our conduct and policies, and to see if these have properly been aligned to our core values of probity, accountability, integrity and social justice.”
As we commemorate this year’s anniversary of the June 4 1979 uprising, the Jerry John Rawlings Foundation congratulates all the gallant warriors, both living and dead and the millions of sympathizers of the June 4 process.
The Foundation urges all Ghanaians to learn to symbolize the true meaning of patriotism – the feeling of love, devotion and a sense of belonging to one’s country. The practice of living a life devoid of distortions of value and a faith and believe that hard work, sacrifice and selflessness is what makes countries great.
Let us appreciate the true meaning of probity and accountability as often highlighted by President Rawlings and exorcise the cancerous spirit of corruption out of our social fabric.
By: J.J Rawlings Foundation
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect The Chronicle’s stance.