Ghana’s president John Atta Mills died suddenly on Tuesday 24 July. He had recently returned from treatment in the United States and was thought to have been suffering from throat cancer. However his death just three days after his 68th birthday was unexpected. He was rushed to hospital with an unspecified complaint and the official announcement of his death was given several hours later.
The vice president John Dramani Mahama was immediately sworn into office by the country’s parliament and takes over full presidential powers and command of the armed forces until elections in December 2012. He has announced a week of mourning.
Mills, who had been president of Ghana since 2009, was due to stand for re-election as the candidate for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in December in what was expected to be a close contest.
Mills studied law at the University of Ghana and also at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies. He also won a Fulbright scholarship to Stanford Law School in the US.
The country’s new president Mahama is 53 years old, is an expert in media communications, an historian and writer. He has studied in Moscow and served as a diplomat in Japan in the early 1990s. He was Ghana’s communications minister from 1998-2001 and then the NDC’s party spokesman when it was in opposition from 2001-2004.
He comes from a political family and was strongly influenced by Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah. He unexpectedly finds himself as the interim leader of one of the most stable and affluent democracies in Africa.