Jerry John Rawlings: Leadership and Legacy A Pan-African Perspective

Sabella Abidde's picture
Call for Papers
May 30, 2021
Alabama, United States
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Black History / Studies, Military History, Political Science, Area Studies

Jerry John Rawlings: Leadership and Legacy A Pan-African Perspective

Editors: Felix Kumah-Abiwu, Ph.D. and Sabella Abidde, Ph.D.


Scholars and public intellectuals from many academic disciplines have for several decades documented how states and societies in Africa are typified by poor leadership, weak, and fragmented institutions. The purpose of this edited project, therefore, is threefold. First, it seeks to examine the role and place of good, effective, and responsive leadership in economic growth and political development across Africa. Second, it seeks to situate Jerry Rawlings-style leadership -- and the outcome of his leadership -- in the annals of good and poor governance in post-independence Africa. And finally, it seeks to enhance our understanding of Jerry Rawlings as one of Africa’s preeminent and controversial leaders.


After decades of colonization, Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve its independence in 1957. Driving the decolonization process was Kwame Nkrumah who went on to become one of Africa’s endearing nationalists and authentic Pan-Africanist. Unfortunately, Nkrumah was overthrown in a military coup d’état in 1966. After several decades of illiberalities, mismanagement, and excesses, a new era (although a subject of contention) came into being in 1979/1981 – an era led by Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings. He was considered by most as a transformative leader. That Ghana is today a shining example of stability, democracy, and development is due, in no small measure, to Jerry Rawlings who died on November 12, 2020.


Rawlings passing shocked and saddened many Ghanaians (and Africans) within and in the Diaspora. Though united in grief; but as with leaders the world over, some of his economic policies and political decisions evoked mixed reactions. For many, Jerry Rawlings was not only a compassionate leader who devoted his life to improving the human condition -- especially the plight of ordinary people -- he was a fearless, pragmatic, and visionary leader with transformative ideas. Yet –he was despised by some because of his authoritarian style of political leadership. Even so, how best to capture and dispassionately examine his legacy is what many scholars and public intellectuals would grapple with for decades.


Notwithstanding, the role and leadership of Jerry Rawlings in terms of his pragmatic decision to accept and implement the external aid package that was negotiated in the 1980s were critically important in changing the direction of the country from a total economic collapse and worsening social decay. While some experts still express skepticism about his commitment to democratic values and norms, it cannot be disregarded that Jerry Rawlings was very instrumental as other national actors in initiating Ghana’s political reforms in the early 1990s. Ghana’s admiration today in the international community as one of Africa’s stable and advancing democratic countries is partly due to Jerry Rawlings. And, of course, it is also important to underscore other prominent roles he played in his post-presidency across the African continent, i.e., democratic elections, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding initiatives. In pursuant to the stated purpose of this project, we invite scholars and public intellectuals to submit chapters that encapsulate and illuminates not just the personality of a uniquely African leader, but to critically examine his leadership style, legacy, and what he bequeathed Africa. Suggested topics include:



  1. Africa’s Nationalist Leaders: A Survey
  2. Military Dictatorship and the One-Party Rule
  3. Poor Leadership and Weak Institutions as Sources of Africa’s Underdevelopment
  4. The African Renaissance: A Dream Deferred
  5. Military Leaders as Statesmen and Pan-Africanists: Thomas Sankara and Gamal Abdel Nasser
  6. Kwame Nkrumah and Obafemi Awolowo: Within and Across the Continent  



  1. Jerry Rawlings, June 4th 1979 Uprising, and the P.N.D.C. Era
  2. Human Rights and the P.N.D.C. Era
  3. Rethinking Ghana’s International Economic Relations: The P.N.D.C. Era
  4. Trends in Ghana’s Public Policy/Administration under Jerry Rawlings
  5. Ghana’s Fourth Republic, Democratic Governance, and Jerry Rawlings
  6. Complexities of Ghana’s Foreign Policy under Jerry Rawlings
  7. Ghana’s Structural Adjustment Program and Food Security (the 1980s-1990s)
  8. Gender Equality, Women’s Empowerment, and Jerry Rawlings
  9. Political Parties, Civil Society, and Jerry Rawlings



  1. Jerry Rawlings: An Officer, a Statesman and a Pan-Africanist
  2. Ghana’s Relations with its Neighbors: Jerry Rawlings and Thomas Sankara
  3. A Comparative Analysis of Structural Adjustment Program in Zambia and Ghana (1980s-1990s)
  4. Post-Presidency of Jerry Rawlings and the African Union
  5. Jerry Rawlings, Pan-Africanism, and the African Diaspora



  1. Please submit a 300-350-word abstract plus a 150-250-word biography (About the Author) by 30 May 2021. You will be notified of acceptance or rejection of your abstract by June 15, 2021
  2. The completed chapter, 8000-9000 words (including notes/references) is due on 30 November 2021. Information regarding the publisher will be transmitted later. For formatting/citation, please adhere to the Chicago Manual of Styles (Chicago: Endnotes/References, no intext-citation)
  3. Please send your abstract, contact info, and inquiry about topics to and please cc the coeditor at



Felix Kumah-Abiwu is an Associate Professor at the Department of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University-Kent, Ohio. He is also the Founding Director of the Center for African Studies at Kent State. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from West Virginia University. He also studied at Ohio University and the Legon Center for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD), University of Ghana. He is the author of The Dynamics of U.S. Narcotics Policy Change: Implications for the Global Narcotics Regime (2012). In addition to his several published book chapters, he has contributed a special chapter on the security challenges of drug trafficking in West Africa to a volume published by the UN University for Peace (UPEACE) as well as a scholarly article published on Jerry Rawlings’ leadership traits/foreign policymaking in The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs. Dr. Kumah-Abiwu’s other works have appeared in the West Africa Review, International Journal of Public Administration, the Journal of Pan-African Studies, Journal of Economics/Sustainable Development, Journal of Men’s Studies, and Commonwealth & Comparative Politics.


Sabella O. Abidde is a Professor of Political Science and a member of the graduate faculty at Alabama State University. He is an interdisciplinary scholar with a BA in international relations and an M.Sc. in educational administration from Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota, an MA in political science from Minnesota State University, and a Ph.D. in African Studies, World Affairs, Public Policy and Development Studies from Howard University. His scholarship includes published volumes on Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Dr. Abidde is the author/editor/co-editor of several publications including China in Africa: Between Imperialism and Partnership in Humanitarian Development (Lexington Books, 2020); Reflections on Exile and Migration: African Scholars and Intellectuals in North American Academies (Routledge, 2020); and African Migrants and the Refugee Crisis (Springer, 2020). He is a member of the Association of Global South Studies (AGSS); the Caribbean Studies Association (CSA); the Latin American Studies Association (LASA); and the African Studies & Research Forum (ASRF).

Contact Info: 

Department of History and Political Science

Alabama State University

Montgomery, AL 36104

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