Former Ghanaian President, Jerry John Rawlings, was buried with full military honours on Wednesday after a state funeral attended by representatives of world leaders.
Rawlings, who died in November aged 73, held power for two decades in Ghana, first as military ruler and later as elected president.
He was buried in a coffin draped in Ghana’s national colours of red, yellow, green and black, and an officer’s cap was placed at the head of the closed coffin with a glittering gold-plated sword.
Rawlings, a former air force pilot, was given a guard of honour at Independence Square — a symbol of Ghana’s victory over colonial Britain — in the nation’s capital Accra.
Hundreds of Ghanaians earlier this week paid their final respects as his coffin laid in state during two days of national mourning under strict COVID-19 protocols.
“You took pride in your fatherly duties… you’re passionate and open-hearted,” said his widow Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings in a tribute.
“Your gift of sharing knew no bounds. You never hesitated to help in the passing of laws to protect the vulnerable in society. Jerry, I know that God created us for each other. You did your best and I played my part,” she said, breaking down in tears as her daughter Princess Amina read out her tribute.
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo described Rawlings as a “charismatic and fearless leader.”
Papa J, as Rawlings was known, was buried at a military cemetery in Accra after a three-hour ceremony of tributes, prayers, cultural displays and songs.
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.
Rawlings got his first taste of power in 1979 when he banded together with other junior officers frustrated over widespread corruption to take control.
He quickly handed the reins to an elected president, but was soon back at the top following another coup on December 31, 1981.
The son of a Scottish father and Ghanaian mother, he became a national icon as he headed Ghana for 20 years until 2001, being voted in as president at the ballot box in 1992 and ushering in democracy.