Ghana mourns after death of president

2012-07-25 14:37
John Atta-Mills

John Atta-Mills

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Accra - Ghana was thrown into mourning on Wednesday after the sudden death of president John Atta Mills five months ahead of elections in the country seen as a bastion of democracy in west Africa.

Mills' death on Tuesday after falling ill led to vice president John Dramani Mahama being sworn in hours later to finish out his term, as dictated by the constitution in the country which recently became a large-scale oil producer.

The cause of death was not given, but the 68-year-old had recently travelled to the United States for what was officially a routine medical check-up and there were unconfirmed reports in local media that he had suffered from throat cancer.

His death raised a host of political questions to be resolved over the coming weeks, as Mills had been set to seek re-election in the December vote in Ghana, also a major producer of cocoa and gold.

There was widespread speculation that Mahama would now run, but the ruling party has been divided in recent months and it was not clear whether there would be a challenge for the nomination.

Political questions were however temporarily put aside on Wednesday, as calls for unity and tributes to Mills, a law professor turned politician widely lauded for his integrity, filled the airwaves and newspapers.

The main opposition New Patriotic Party suspended its presidential campaign while Mahama declared a week of mourning, with flags flown at half-mast.

"I call on all Ghanaians to stand united in this moment of national loss and grief ...," the opposition party's candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, said in a statement.


Worldwide tributes also poured in, including from US President Barack Obama, who chose Ghana for his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as president in 2009.

"President Mills tirelessly worked to improve the lives of the Ghanaian people," Obama said in a statement.

"He helped promote economic growth in Ghana in the midst of challenging global circumstances and strengthened Ghana's strong tradition of democracy."

It was not clear when the funeral would be held. The ruling party was expected to meet to plot a way forward, particularly regarding the presidential campaign.

While Mills was praised for his honesty, he had also faced criticism in recent months for what was seen as a lack of initiative.

"He was well liked, but there was also a sense of variable performance and that maybe there was a lack of energy," said Alex Vines of London-based think tank Chatham House's Africa programme.

Vines said that may have been due to his health problems. Mills had recently shown signs of illness, including losing his voice and a gradual loss of weight.

The former law professor took over as Ghana's president in January 2009 after falling short in two previous campaigns.

The Rawlings

He narrowly won the vote in 2008 with a less than one percent margin against a candidate from the party of incumbent John Kufuor, widely respected for having bowed out following his two terms in office.

In July last year, Mills was nominated to be the NDC's presidential candidate for the December vote. The primary represented the first time in the country's history that a sitting president competed for his own party's nomination.

Mills beat his only rival in the party primary, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, the wife of ex-military leader Jerry Rawlings.

The Rawlings family expressed their condolences in a statement which said they were currently attending an event in Brazzaville. A formal statement would be issued upon their return, it said.

Ghana, a country of some 25 million people, joined the ranks of the world's large-scale oil producers in December 2010.

The country has begun producing oil from its offshore Jubilee field, one of the largest discoveries in west Africa in recent years. The field's operator Tullow has estimated that the field's recoverable resources amount to up to one billion barrels.

Read more on:    barak obama  |  john mahama  |  john atta mills  |  jerry rawlings  |  ghana  |  west africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.