Former Ghanaian president Jerry John Rawlings, who died last Thursday at the age of 73, always seemed to be an indestructible symbol of virility. He towered over the Ghanaian political landscape for two decades (1981-2000), and his legacy is ultimately a complex one: he attracted both fanatical followers and embittered enemies.

Rawlings’s father was a Scottish chemist who refused to acknowledge his son, leaving an enduring emotional scar. His Ewe mother, Victoria Agbotui, died two months ago at the age of 101. Rawlings had a solid educational foundation, attending the famous Achimota College, “the Eton of Ghana”. It was here that he met his future wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman, with whom he had three daughters and a son. He joined the Ghanaian air force in 1968, and became a flight lieutenant a decade later...

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