President of Ghana dies suddenly
July 24, 2012 4:17 PM   Subscribe

President John Atta Mills of Ghana died unexpectedly today, with Vice President John Dramani Mahama taking the presidency.

The West African nation of Ghana (the second largest producer of cocoa and also a large miner of gold) has become a model for African democracy, with peaceful transitions of power since becoming a constitutional parliamentary republic in 1992. Its 2008 elections, which brought Mills to power and were not without controversy despite being peaceful, were the subject of the award-winning documentary film An African Election. Mills was a candidate for re-election, with the first round scheduled for December of this year, and his National Democratic Congress party has called an emergency meeting to determine whether Mahama will replace him on the ballot. His opponent, Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party, has suspended his campaign until further notice.

Mills, 68, was a lawyer who also studied at the London School of Economics and Stanford University, then taught at the University of Ghana for 25 years. He stood as the NDC's vice-presidential candidate when former dictator Jerry Rawlings ran for his second term as president in 1997, then ran to succeed him in 2001. He lost that race, and the next one, to John Kufuor of the NPP, but finally won the presidency in 2008. He led efforts to produce oil in Ghana. He is the first Ghanaian head of state to die in office.
posted by Etrigan (12 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This is sad and shocking news.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:20 PM on July 24, 2012

A damn shame. Let's hope Mr. Mahama keeps up the good work.
posted by mykescipark at 4:23 PM on July 24, 2012

Curious (I have no info on the credibility or reliability of this site, it's the first thing that came up when I googled for news on Jerry Rawlings (who I initially thought Mills was, my memory was wrong, apparently)....
President John Evans Atta Mills got the shock of his life when his former boss, Jerry John Rawlings, told him point blank that he should be ruled out in the NDC campaign for the December 7, 2012 elections.

Mr Rawlings, the NDC founder, made his views known at a Castle meeting between him and the president.

According to a Castle source, Mr. Rawlings did not mince words when he said ‘no’ to the request, dazing the president in the process.

The former president attended the Castle meeting with his aide and spokesperson, Kofi Adams who did not sit in the meeting.

Narrating what ensued when the former president appeared at the Castle, a development which was over-spun by NDC propagandists, the source said the whole issue started when Mr Rawlings was in Somalia on official assignment.

A call was sent to him by President Mills’s head of security at the Castle, Colonel Attachie, to inform him that the president wanted to talk to him.

The former president, the source said, asked why such a request had to pass through him “but when eventually they spoke, JJ said he was away in Somalia but would contact him upon his return.

“When JJ returned to Ghana, he proceeded to the Castle where his host told him that he did not hate him, to which the former president asked, ‘since when did I say that you hate me?’”

With that aspect of the preliminary exchanges over, Mr. Rawlings’s host said he wanted to find out whether he would support him in the forthcoming campaign but the NDC founder declined.

“JJ told him that he would not campaign for a sinking ship,” the source said, adding that since the former president characteristically “does not keep things in his head”, he relayed what transpired at the Castle to his confidantes when he returned.

Mr Rawlings used the visit to wish the president well since he was meeting him for the first time since the latter returned from the United States for medical review.

However, since the meeting, NDC apologists have twisted what transpired at the Castle, claiming that Rawlings would lead the NDC campaign.
Though with a word like "apologist" it's clear there's a strong editorial bent in this article.
posted by symbioid at 4:34 PM on July 24, 2012

Good luck with the transition, Ghana. President Mills sounds like he was a relatively decent sort for a politician. Hopefully Ghana can get someone as good or better to replace him, and hopefully the election will be smooth and by-the-book. Sounds like we can expect that to be so, which is fortunate. Any more details on the cause of death, though? It's always a bit disturbing when a political leader dies suddenly of vague causes.
posted by Scientist at 4:36 PM on July 24, 2012

Especially when oil's involved.
posted by Malor at 4:45 PM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by Kevtaro at 5:20 PM on July 24, 2012

Their VP (now President) just released a book called "My First Coup d'Etat." It's a collection of stories about his life. He was on NPR this week talking about it. From one interview, he seemed to be a very good person.

But politicians have a way of doing that, don't they?
posted by glaucon at 5:51 PM on July 24, 2012


President Mills was reported to have suffered from throat cancer, and had recently returned from the US after seeking medical treatment. He died at 37 Military Hospital, the premier public hospital in Accra.

I had a lot of fun talking to taxi drivers in Accra about the upcoming elections (ours and theirs) last month. Everyone was really excited about the outcome-- and completely confident in the process. The energy for progress and development in Ghana is palpable, and they will carry on despite the loss.
posted by charmcityblues at 6:53 PM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

posted by ramix at 10:57 PM on July 24, 2012

Previously on Ghana and JJ Rawlings.

And, what Malor has said already. Oil and a 22% annual GDP growth, btw, as well as a wikileaks cable showing Atta Mills complaining to the US Ambassador about American oil company attempts to bribe him makes this smell.

posted by infini at 1:18 AM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Since 2008, Africa has lost eight heads of state. There are only 54 states. That's a presidential mortality rate of nearly 15%...

As many U.S. presidents have died since 1789, and there have been only 44 of them. Head of state is a stressful job that skews old.
posted by Etrigan at 2:01 PM on August 1, 2012

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