ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — President John Atta Mills vowed to spread Ghana's wealth stemming from newly discovered offshore oil fields, but his death Tuesday came before he could finish his first term in this West African nation long held up as a model of democracy. He was 68.
The country's 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.
Atta Mills celebrated his 68th birthday Saturday. He 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.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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