News / Africa

Ghana's President John Atta Mills Dead at 68

Ghana's President John Evans Atta Mills.
Ghana's President John Evans Atta Mills.
Anne Look

DAKAR — Ghana's president, John Atta Mills, died Tuesday at a military hospital in Accra shortly after falling ill.  Officials did not give a cause of death.  Vice President John Dramani Mahama was sworn in to finish Mills's term.  

President John Atta Mills died five months short of finishing his first term in office and only days after celebrating his 68th birthday.  He was set to run for a second term in elections planned for December 7.  His death has taken the nation by surprise.

Shopkeeper Teresa Ayerakwo closed her shop early on Tuesday.  "In fact, today I am sad.  I won't eat today.  Never.  My husband is dead, but today's death is very, very paining for me.  He is a Christian.  He was nice to everybody, how he speak, he's very gentle, you see, and he care for us.  I don't think I can vote again.  Never.  Very painful for me," she said. 

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, center, pays her respects after signing the guest book for Ghana's late President John Atta Mills' funeral in Accra, Ghana, August 10, 2012.
  • People walk to pay tribute to late President John Atta Mills at the parliament in Accra, Ghana, August 9, 2012.
  • A hearse carries the body of late President John Atta Mills to the parliament in Accra, Ghana, August 8, 2012.
  • Ghana's President John Dramani Mahama (C) arrives for the beginning of the three days of funeral ceremonies for late President John Atta Mills, Accra, Ghana, August 8, 2012.
  • Ghana President John Atta Mills attends the Chicago Council's Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, May 18, 2012.
  • US President Barack Obama sits with Ghana's President John Atta Mills, right, and President Yayi Boni of Benin during a luncheon on Food Security at the G-8 Summit at Camp David, May 19, 2012.
  • John Atta Mills visits the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and talks with specialist Jennifer Klesaris December 15, 2011.
  • Ghana's President John Atta Mills, right, gestures as he speaks after being sworn in as the country's new president during a ceremony in Accra, Ghana, January 7, 2009.
  • John Atta Mills after he won the presidency of Ghana, January 3, 2009.
Mills was elected president in 2009, following a close runoff election that was praised by observers as a free, fair and peaceful transition of power.  It was his third and only successful bid for the presidency. 

The Ghanaian leader reiterated his commitment to political stability during a visit with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in March. 

"We have an election this year, but we are going to ensure there is peace before, during and after.  When there is no peace, it is not the leaders who suffer, it is the ordinary people who have elected us into office.  So we have a big challenge, and we know that some of our friends in Africa are looking up to us, and we dare not fail them," he said. 

Watch VOA's Shaka Ssali's '09 interview with President Mills

During the past two years, Mills presided over one of the fastest growing economies in the world.  But he faced some criticism that Ghana's economic boom has yet to include average citizens who face high rates of unemployment and poverty. 

Supporters like Efua Mensima say they are sad Mills will not be able to finish what he started.

"I miss him, I miss him.  I miss him personally and I miss his visions for Ghana.  I miss what he lived for, for everybody to create an enabling environment; for everybody to work, earn a living; for everybody to get free access to education, to health, to social activities like recreation and, well, for everybody to live and enjoy as a human," he said. 

A distinguished law professor and taxation expert, Mills taught at the University of Ghana for more than 25 years.

He served in various financial posts in government before taking on the role of vice president from 1997 to 2000 under Ghana's military dictator and later elected president, J.J. Rawlings.

Mills was known to be a soft-spoken politician, a devout Christian and an avid hockey player.

Laura Burke contributed reporting from Cape Coast, Ghana.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Mataesanqua from: South Africa
August 06, 2012 7:20 AM
shwame i wanda what's the cause but his death should teach others countries a lesson not to elect elderly people now it's the time for the youth to rule the world.........may his soul rest in condelences to his family

by: Daniel Aniekwe from: Enugu, Nigeria
July 30, 2012 5:15 AM
May His gentle soul rest in perfect peace. RIPP.

by: Sweetie from: Tabora
July 28, 2012 12:24 PM
I believe strongly deep down within my heart that my only President Fiifi is not dead.

by: Ophelia from: kumasi Ghana
July 25, 2012 10:56 AM
The death of our president is a big blow to us all. it is not easy at all accepting it.God help Ghana.
In Response

by: P. FourStars from: USA
July 25, 2012 11:41 AM
I just recievied news this Wednesday mourning from two of my closest Ghanian friends that Mr President Mills has passed earlier today. Sad news indeed. My heart goes out to all of Ghana and it's respected citizens. Much love to all of you. Please keep God close to your hearts. You must pray for Gods protection and for a stable society,

by: John Adams from: UK
July 25, 2012 10:28 AM
Pay tribute to John Evans Atta Mills memory on his online memorial!

by: Anonymous
July 25, 2012 7:11 AM
how did he die

by: katty from: tema
July 25, 2012 7:08 AM
how did this sad event occur

by: Zigah from: Accra
July 25, 2012 6:47 AM
A very humble and hardworking president who had great love for his country. We will surely miss this great man

by: david lulasa from: tambua,gimarakwa,vihiga.
July 25, 2012 6:43 AM
may he rest in christ please whilst waiting to meet again with those of us still on earth.death is never untimely,its only unexpected..and the reason we might feel sorry is because death is no different from being lonely...only GOD allows death even when targeted by people..may ghanians be strong during this unavoidable fact in mans life cycle.

by: Miss Attah from: Accra
July 25, 2012 5:00 AM
I am not an NDC sympathizer, but his death is something I never anticipated.... I'm still overwhelmed and shocked by this event.
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