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Ghana’s Atta-Mills to Become President Wednesday

Professor John Evans Atta-Mills officially will be sworn in today as Ghana's next president, taking over from outgoing President John Kufuor. Chief Justice Georgina Wood will deliver the oath of office to President-Elect Atta-Mills this afternoon in the capital, Accra after a new speaker of parliament and other parliamentarians have been sworn in. Today's ceremony is the second time in Ghana's 52-year political history that an elected leader will be handing over power to another elected leader.

Atta-Mills was declared winner of Ghana's December 28 runoff election with more than 50 percent of the votes. The runoff was necessitated after candidates of the ruling party and the main opposition failed to garner the minimum requirement to win the December 7 first round of the general election. Ali Mazrui is a professor of political science and African studies at State university of New York Binghamton. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that Ghana's democratic experience should serve as a shining example to all of Africa.

"Just permitting the process of election to go on without excessive interruptions and violence, so while not everything went perfectly in Ghana, it was far, far better than we experienced in my own country in Kenya in December-January of last year, and far better than Zimbabwe had undergone. So this is a good example, and we hope it is a sort of example that would be repeated elsewhere on our continent," Professor Mazrui pointed out.

He said Ghana seems to be on the highway of showing how democracy can be entrenched to make subversion of the constitution a thing of the past.

"Ghana has given us an example as a country which used to be coup prone. Africa has had coup prone countries liable to periodic military interventions and relatively coup proof countries, some of whom have never had a military coup since independence almost 50 years ago. So Ghana started off since 1966 to demonstrate a proneness to military intervention. And since then it has moved gradually, but decisively towards qualifying for relative coup proof-ness, and it is something worth studying for the rest of the continent," he said.

Professor Mazrui said there is need for Africa's regional bodies to be decisive on instituting democracy on the continent.

"Regional organizations should be alert on these issues and should take positions about democratic performance. The so-called peer review and use of the Ghanaian example is one type of module to examine for lessons," Professor Mazrui noted.

He said the Ghanaian democratic process could make other countries hopeful and could trigger a paradigm shift towards embracing the tenets of democracy.

"The Ghanaian example has been repeated more than once with a change of regime, and that becomes extra reassuring. If it only happens once, you are not sure whether you have arrived yet. If it happens twice, you are on your way towards stabilizing peaceful changes of government through the electoral process. And the sort of thing should become a major priority in the agenda of the African Union and in the agenda of the sub-regional organizations like ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) or the East African Community so that we keep a constant state of alertness about how to improve our own performance in the democratic process," he said.

Professor Mazrui hailed the outgoing party's peaceful transition from a ruling government to an opposition government.

"This transition of the ruling party being defeated and then another one taking over, this is a particularly crucial type of transition. And secondly, if I understand what has happened in the Ghanaian election this time, it is also a transition in relations to changing of regimes on the basis of ethnicity. It's very important that different ethnic group gets a sense of access to ultimate power," Professor Mazrui pointed out.

He compared Ghana's democratic process to that of the United States, which elected Barak Obama as the first African-American president to take over from outgoing President George Bush.

"Here in America, we are celebrating Obama's achievement as an unprecedented and precedented assumption of the presidency by an African American. And I believe Ghana is showing similar tendencies towards opening the gates to ultimate power to other ethnic groups. So it is not just rotation of political parties. There should also be rotation of ethnic incumbency and Ghanaians are getting better and better at that sort of thing," he said.

Professor Atta-Mills, is considered by many Ghanaians as making personal history after being the first sitting former vice president to lose power, stay in the opposition for eight consecutive years under another party's rule, and then win power back from an incumbent. The election was described by both international and local observers as meeting international standards by being transparent, free and fair.