ACCRA, Ghana — John Atta Mills, who was elected president in the closest vote in Ghana’s history and then led the West African country amid newfound oil wealth, died Tuesday just months before the end of his first term. He was 68.
Ghanaian state-run television stations GTV and TV3 broke into regular programming to announce the president’s death. Chief of Staff John Henry Martey Newman told the nation that Atta Mills had died Tuesday afternoon at the 37th Military Hospital in Accra but gave no details about the cause of his death.
Information Minister Fritz Baffour later confirmed that Atta Mills had died but also declined to comment further.
According to state-run media, Ghana’s parliament was to hold an emergency meeting immediately.
The president celebrated his 68th birthday Saturday. Atta Mills served 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, whose economy has been fueled by gold, cocoa and timber exports in the past, hopes to put the oil money to good use, mindful of how nearby Nigeria suffered through military dictatorships and widespread corruption over its oil wealth.
Atta Mills traveled to the United States in March and met for a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. He also traveled to the U.S. in April as well, as rumors about his health began to circulate Ghana.
A government official in neighboring Ivory Coast said that he saw Atta Mills around six months ago in Ethiopia during an African Union meeting.
“We are hearing that he died of cancer of the throat. I saw him in Addis Ababa — not this meeting, but the one maybe six months ago,” said the official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. “He was walking slowly. I am surprised to learn that he is only 68. He looked much older.”
Still, the official said that no one suspected that he was gravely ill. “Yes, his death is a surprise — it’s six months before the election, and he was a candidate.”
Opposition newspapers had recently reported that he was not well enough to run for a second term.
Still, the sudden news of his death came as a surprise. Louis Agbo, a university student in Accra, said he saw the television stations break in to announce Atta Mills’ death and was shocked by the news.
“I could not even shout or cry,” Agbo said. “I rushed outside and saw people crying and wailing on the street.”
Atta Mills was elected in a 2008 runoff vote — his third presidential bid — and was to run for a second term in December. He campaigned on a platform of change, arguing that the western African country’s growth had not been felt in people’s wallets.
“People are complaining. They’re saying that their standard of living has deteriorated these past eight years,” he said. “So if Ghana is a model of growth, it’s not translating into something people can feel.”
Atta Mills even put up campaign posters of himself standing next to a cutout of Obama in an effort to emphasize that the Ghanaian stood for change.
He spent much of his career teaching at the University of Ghana. He earned a doctorate from London’s School of Oriental and African Studies before becoming a Fulbright scholar at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
Ghana, the first African nation to declare independence, has been held up as a model of democracy on a continent where violence often accompanies elections.
Countessa mi it seem to be true o. Wow what a sudden death or did he have an underlying illness before? The news said though that he died shortly after taking ill. Could be as a result of massive stroke or heart failure.
May His Soul rest in peace.
Its also on BBC here
According to BBC he had not long returned from the US where he went for medical checks so it could be from a pre-existing illness.
This life is sometimes so ephemeral that it make you wonder why people especially our politicians for instance amass so much wealth as if they will live with it for ever.
Na wa o!!
All those wishing Nigeria ill.
First it was Ghaddafi asking for the break up of Nigeria, and today we all know where he is.
Then another prominent professor from Ghana went on air abusing GEJ, and a few weeks later the president of Ghana dies!!
What are we to assume from these incidents.... mere coincidences?
Eherm.. may he rest in peace!
Maybe its a case of the devil knows how to protect its own Shiny he he he.
Wow ! what a sad news.
May his soul rest in peace.
I must say a very brilliant and an unassuming tough man.
And I am quite fascinated by his first lady. An animal (dog) lover, who was just only recently highlighted on a special BBC documentary report as an influential and very talented lady who likes to talk to her dogs and loves them so dearly.
How old was he
Was he sick abi dem don giam apple
The man was old over 50 so it was only a matter of time. At least he left Ghana in a good state even though I don't care much for them but in all honesty they can swagger around because Ghana is a million times better than Nigeria. RIP Atta Mills.
why? Have you avenged us without letting on SC.
May he rest in peace...
but then again, he might not if there are homosexuals in heaven because they may have a bone to pick.
Throat cancer, apparently.
May the man s gentle soul rest in perfect peace.
Somehow, his eyes looked like he was ill inside. He was a great follower of T.B. Joshua and its a surprise TB did not see this coming.
I wonder why he could not have resigned to go take good care of himself. So, with all Ghana s noise, their President too flew to America for treatment! Why are African leaders whose citizens are some of the best brains in all fields of human endeavours in the diaspora unable to build well-equipped Hospitals in Africa?
Those who are still busy feathering their nests should remember that nobody can tell when and how...then, those who had no inputs in the "nest building" would have a ball while you go and render accounts of your looting stewardship yonder!