New president for Ghana

Ghana’s new president John Atta Mills is
confident about the country’s future.
(Image:Attamills2008)

Khanyi Magubane  

African leaders have praised the election of Ghana’s new president John Atta Mills as an example of a well functioning democracy in practice.

The run off elections were described as orderly and credible, this in stark contrast to the year of political crisis in that country characterised by violent clashes.  

Atta Mills won eight out of 10 regions while the second contender Nana Akufo Addo won the remaining two regions.

In the first round of polls on 7 December 2008, Akufo Addo won three regions but lost the Brong Ahafo Region to Mills in the run off.

The 64-year old law professor was announced as the winner on 3 January 2009.

South African president Kgalema Motlanthe congratulated Atta Mills, saying that his election has brought hope for millions of Ghanaians, the continent and the West African region.

“South Africa reaffirms its commitment to work together with you for the political unity and integration of the African continent within the framework of the African Union and through our support for Nepad as well as the AU institutions.”

Motlanthe also added that the elections, which started on 28 December, bore testimony to Ghana’s respect for democracy and good governance in Africa.

“In this regard, our congratulations also go to the people of Ghana who have through the ballot paper, showed their appreciation for democracy.”

Speaking of Atta Mills’ win, which was his third attempt at the presidency, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga voiced his satisfaction at the electoral process, “John Atta Mills’ victory and the conduct of the people of Ghana provides a rare example of democracy at work in Africa.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon also praised the peaceful manner in which Ghanaians went to the polls, “With their continuing show of commitment to the democratic process, Ghana and its leaders are setting an admirable example.”

Despite a few sporadic clashes, international observers gave the elections thumbs up; saying that voting for the most part was peaceful.

Atta Mills, head of the National Democratic Congress party, won 50.23% of ballots cast on 28 December 2008.

The chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, confirmed Atta Mills’s victory on Saturday 3 January.

Leader of the former ruling party the New Patriotic Party Nana Akufo-Addo only clinched 49.77% of the votes.

Speaking to the local media in Ghana, Emmanuel Gyimah-Boardi, the executive director of the Accra-based Centre for Democratic Development said in an interview that the smooth elections were a milestone for Ghana, “It brings us our second peaceful alteration of power,” he said.

“It’s a rare thing in Africa. It’s even more rare for it to happen twice in the same country.”

The statistics indicate that national voter turnout was 72.9%. The Ashanti Region recorded the highest voters with 83.31%, while the Western Region recorded the lowest turnout of 66.48%.

Third time lucky

After loosing to his predecessor John Kufuor in 2000 and in 2004, his 2008 victory is the culmination of determination and tenacity for Atta Mills.

Described by his family as soft-spoken, the politician and academic ran for presidency under the slogan “A better man for a better Ghana”.

Similar to US president-elect Barack Obama’s call for change in America, Atta Mills stated to local media before the elections that he felt his chances of winning had significantly improved this time around, as the people of Ghana were ready for change.

During his journey to the presidency, he also overcame health challenges after being diagnosed with cancer. At some point it was erroneously reported that he had died in a South African hospital.

Atta Mills rose to prominence in 1997 when former leader Jerry Rawlings named him vice president.

He held this position until the former coup leader-turned-elected president made way for Kufuor after the 2000 elections.

During his election campaign, Atta Mills, popularly known as “The Prof”, encouraged would-be voters to believe in his ability to alleviate their social conditions, “I am the leader of a party that has welfare and a people-centred approach to managing the affairs of state as its core values.”

A born leader  

Born at Tarkwa in western Ghana in 1944, Atta Mills studied law at the University of Ghana and later obtained his law doctorate from London’s School of Oriental and African Studies at the tender age of 27.

After completing his law studies in Britain, he returned to Ghana where he taught law at Ghana University for 25 years. He has also been a visiting professor to various universities across the world.

Atta Mills takes over the reigns as Ghana’s gross domestic product grew by 6.3% in 2007, up from 3.7% in 2000.

The inflation, which fell to 10.7% in 2007 from 32.9% in 2000, rose up to   17.4% in November amid rising food prices.

According to the International Monetary Fund, gold currently accounts for 41% of the countries export revenue and cocoa 27%.

To further ensure the smooth changeover of administrations, Atta Mills has appointed a 12-member transitional team to assist in the shift from the Kufuor Administration to his government.

The team consists of highly respected and prominent Ghanaian politicians Paul Victor Obeng as Chairman, Alex Segbefia as Secretary and Hannah Tetteh as Spokesperson.

The other members of the team will be the chairpersons of nine sub-committees set up to provide the technical back up support to the transitional team.

The team will work with the outgoing government to ensure the effective handing over of the national administration. It will also advise on the nomination of persons to hold office in the new government.

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