A declassified dossier on former President Flt. Jerry John Rawlings by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States government in the height of the 31st December 1981 coup believed his ‘ lacklustre and indecisive leadership’ bred radical faction within the military junta.
This radical faction, the report said gained the upper hand and made inroads in key areas including security and media and led the country to drift leftward in its foreign policy stance and attempted to engender public support through leftist ‘People’s Defense Committees’ (PDCs).
According to the Americans, despite the indecisive and lacklustre leadership of Mr. Rawlings, he was the only force that held the fragile regime together at the time while the radicals plotted to push him aside.
The CIA file, which gathered most of its intelligence on the former military leader from the United States Embassy in Ghana and allied governments in the sub-region described Rawlings as a relatively non-ideological populist dedicated to creating a more egalitarian society through ‘his ill-defined revolution.’
Rawlings, it said, was heavily dependent on a ‘kitchen cabinet’ advisers dominated by radicals who aimed to align Ghana more closely with Communist states and Libya.
The radicals, the US ambassadors at the time, believed were doing their best to keep Rawlings isolated from other influences.
And the radicals were led by Captain Kojo Tsikata who was described as a self-professed Marxist revolutionary and followed by Chris Atim, a former leftist student leader.
The report indicated that Rawlings publicly and frequently acknowledged his gratitude to Tsikata and claimed the former Army Captain protected him from prosecution by ex-President Hilla Liman’s security services.
The report indicated that Kojo Tsikata succeeded in gaining de facto control over Ghana’s internal security apparatus and together with the radicals succeeded in removing the elected moderate leadership of Ghana’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) and its constituent unions but failed in their efforts to dominate students’ organizations, thereby lost a key election in June to anti-government- backed moderates.
The few moderates of the regime, according to the dossier, led by Obed Yaw Asamoah were effectively isolated by radical manoeuvring and feared becoming scapegoats for the regimes’ failures.
“We have observed that Secretary for Foreign Affairs Obed Asamoah, though moderate in his personal views and married to an American, dutifully echoes the regime’s foreign policy line.”
“According to the US Embassy, Asamoah’s appointment was opposed by the leading leftist student organization, which has dubbed him a “counterrevolutionary.”
“Nevertheless, according to Embassy reporting, the moderates are searching for ways to strengthen their position. In June moderates began taking pro-Western public positions and Embassy sources indicate they are ready to counter radical efforts to discredit the West by publicizing Western economic assistance.”
“We believe moderates may have helped arrange the US Ambassador’s long-awaited meeting with Rawl¬ings in late June. While the Embassy reported the tone of the meeting was cordial, we have not observed a marked improvement in relations. In our estimation, the moderate faction remains weak,” parts of the dossier reported.
The coup, it said, indicated that radical advisers around Rawlings had succeeded in gaining control over the country’s internal security apparatus and government-controlled media.
It read, “According to the Embassy, the radicals, mindful of their need to develop a broader power base, actively attempted to implant “people’s defence com¬mittees” similar to those found in other radical Third World states as a mass political organization, and to extend control over students and labour organiza¬tions.”
The file suggested a possible plot to eliminate President Rawlings but the US worried that the elimination of Rawlings in the near term before the radicals established a broader power base would have risked plunging the country into anarchy.
Tsikata and radical figures on the horizon, the US believed did not have sufficient stature or popular following at the time to retain power without substantial foreign support.
“In our estimation, however, an ill-timed radical coup remains an ever-present possibility if frustration grows among these avowed leftists in Rawlings’s entourage who are dissatisfied with the regime’s frequent policy paralysis and the slow progress of social and economic change.”
“A drift toward chaos could come in other ways. We believe that growing economic hardship as the radi¬cals attempt to solidify their hold, drive moderates out of the regime and transform society could lead to more mutinous eruptions in the military.”
“Any future effort to build up a “people’s militia,” particularly if it received favoured support over the regular armed forces, would also be a likely source of rebellion in our estimation. In our view, outbreaks of factional fight¬ing within the armed forces, unless quickly controlled, could spread throughout the country and result, we believe, in the regime’s loss of control.”
“Ghana’s col¬lapse into anarchy, we believe, could frustrate short-¬term gains for the Soviets, Libyans, and Cubans, but almost certainly would yield exploitable opportunities over the longer term,” the report noted.
It clarified further that even if a moderate-led coup was successful, the US had serious doubts about the survivability of the government that would emerge.