RIP: Jerry Rawlings.

Ghana’s former President Jerry John Rawlings has died at the age of 73.

He led two coups, first in 1979, before twice being elected president in multi-party polls.

A charismatic figure, he first seized power railing against corruption and was responsible for executing several former heads of state for their alleged graft and mismanagement.

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He was also seen as a champion of the poor, but came to be criticised for alleged human rights abuses.

A week of national mourning has been announced in Ghana.

Reports from Ghana say that the former president died in hospital in the capital, Accra, after a short illness.

The son of a Scottish farmer and a Ghanaian mother, Rawlings entered the Ghana Air Force, graduating in 1969.

A decade later, as a senior officer in the air force, he overthrew a military government, handing over power to a civilian leader.

He oversaw the execution of several former heads of state and army generals for corruption, but expressed some regret about the killings. Later the execution by firing squad of Supreme Court judges also left a stain on his legacy.

“I am still aware that we in Ghana do not like bloodshed,” he said at the time.

“I personally do not like it. I mean, I’d rather, let’s say, confiscate a man’s wealth and bring him down to the level to which he’s brought us just to give him a taste of what life has been, what he’s done to us.”

Two years later he led a second coup and was the head of a military junta until introducing multi-party elections in 1992, when he was first elected president. He stepped down in 2001 after serving two terms.

He began his time in power as a committed socialist, but later introduced free-market reforms.

He ushered in a long period of political stability, that continues in Ghana today, after a tumultuous series of coups in the 1960s and 1970s.

In later years, Rawlings campaigned for African nations to have their international debts written off.

In 2010 it was announced he had been named as the African Union envoy to Somalia.

His legacy is controversial and he divided opinion domestically and in the wider world.

His detractors accused him of torture, corruption and worse. To his supporters, he brought order, security and prosperity to Ghana.

Tributes have started pouring in for Rawlings.

Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo announced seven days of national mourning.

“A great tree has fallen, and Ghana is poorer for this loss,” he said in a statement.

Liberian President George Weah said “Ghana, Liberia and Africa will miss a great leader”.

“Liberia remembers his immense contribution to the attainment and sustainment of peace during our dark days of our own history,” he added in a tweet.