John Agyekum Kufuor was born on 8 December 1938 in Kumasi, the Asante capital. A lawyer, he was educated at Prempeh College, Kumasi (completing in 1958), and Lincoln’s Inn, London, where he was called to the English Bar in 1961. He holds a BA (Hons) and an MA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics awarded in 1964 by Britain’s top university, Oxford.
Kufuor is married to Theresa (nee Mensah). They have five children. A devout Roman Catholic, Kufuor’s other pastime is football – for four years in the 1980s he was the director of one of Africa’s top football dubs, Asante Kotoko, which is to the Asantes what FC Barcelona is to the Catalonians in Spain.
A good listener, diplomatic and a consensus builder, Kufuor is affectionately called the “Gentle Giant” on account of his height – he is a huge man. Like the English author Jeffrey Archer, Kufuor believes that “politics is for long distance runners, not sprinters”. No wonder, his public service record goes back 33 years. He was first appointed chief legal officer and town clerk (city manager) of Kumasi in 1967. He was a member of the constituent assemblies that drafted the constitutions of Ghana’s Second and Third Republics respectively, and served in both Republics as an MP representing the Asante constituency of Atwima Nwabiagya. He was made a deputy minister for foreign affairs in Dr Kofi Busia’s short-lived government in the Second Republic.
The name of his party has changed with the times – from the National Liberation Movement (NLM) under Busia, to the Progress Party (PP) again under Busia, the Popular Front Party (PFP) under Victor Owusu, and the National Patriotic Party (NPP) under Prof Adu Boahen and now Kufuor himself
In 1979 when Dr Hilla Limann became president in the Third Republic, Kufuor was deputy leader of the PFP opposition in parliament, and the party’s foreign affairs spokesman.
Soon after Rawlings coup of 31 December 1981, the political parties in the country formed an alliance called the All People’s Party (APP), which, in January 1982 accepted an invitation from Rawlings to send representatives to serve in his PNDC military government. There were talks about a “national government” at the time, but nothing of the sort happened.
Kufuor was among the APP representatives nominated by the alliance to serve under Rawlings. The others were Dr Obed Asamoah and Alhaji Iddrisu Mahama (who both subsequently stayed on with Rawlings, in various positions, for the next 19 years).
But Kufuor resigned as secretary for local government after seven months with the PNDC, because as he said at the time, the PNDC was not the national government that Rawlings had promised. In a 1997 newspaper interview, Kufuor revealed that he had met Rawlings only twice in all the seven months that he was his minister for local government. Yet, during his short spell at the ministry, Kufuor initiated the Local Government Policy Guidelines which became the foundation for the current decentralised district assemblies in the country.
A successful businessman, Kufuor established the Ashanti Brick and Tile Company in 1979, and managed it successfully together with his family’s timber and transport businesses. Mike Afrani
Copyright International Communications Feb 2001
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