Accra, Ghana: President John Atta Mills’ election victory secured Ghana’s reputation as one of the most mature democracies in West Africa, a position further solidified Tuesday when the vice-president took over only hours after the 68-year-old president died five months before finishing his first term.
John Mahama’s swift inauguration underscored Ghana’s stability in a part of the world where the deaths of other leaders have sparked coups.
“We are deeply distraught, devastated as a country,” Mahama said after his swearing-in ceremony, where he raised the golden staff of office above his head.
Ghanaian state-run television stations GTV and TV3 broke into their regular programming to announce the president’s death Tuesday afternoon. Government officials did not release the cause of his death, which came three days after his 68th birthday.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “President Mills will be remembered for his statesmanship and years of dedicated service to his country,” according to a statement from his spokesman.
“At this time of national mourning, the secretary-general renews the commitment of the United Nations to work alongside the government and the people of Ghana in support of their efforts to consolidate the country’s democratic and development achievements,” the spokesman said.
South African President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday hailed Ghana’s late president John Atta Mills for working to strengthen relations between the two countries.
Atta Mills was elected in a 2008 runoff vote that was the closest in the country’s history — and his third presidential bid.
He went on to serve as president as Ghana began grappling with how to deal with its newfound oil wealth from offshore fields discovered in the last five years. The country of about 25 million saw a growth rate of more than 14 per cent last year, though some analysts say the handling of his time in office was less than stellar.