“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.