A reluctant democrat

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PRESIDENT Jerry Rawlings, Ghana's charismatic leader, is the offspring of a Ghanaian mother and Scottish chemist who never acknowledged him as his son.

He came to power in 1979 as a young flight lieutenant after staging a military coup. He handed over Ghana to a civilian president but two years later, apparently dismayed by Ghana's decline,again took power by force.

The early years were marked by repression and it was the 1990s before Rawlings moved towards democracy, pushed by the need for international loans. He claims to believe in democracy now but admits he finds it frustratingly time-consuming.Nevertheless, he has proved popular at the polls.

Mr Rawlings's conversion to democracy will be contested in two years at elections he is barred from contesting. His wife, Nana, is a contender to replace him.