ACCRA, Ghana (AFP) — Ghana President John Atta Mills has died hours after suddenly falling sick, the presidency announced on yesterday, but details of his death remained unclear.
"It is with a heavy heart that we announce the sudden and untimely death of the president of the republic of Ghana," the statement said, adding that the 68-year-old leader of the West African nation died a few hours after being taken ill.
According to the constitution, Vice President John Dramani Mahama is to take over as interim leader. Presidential elections are set for December in a country seen as a rare example of stable democracy in West Africa.
The late president had recently travelled to the United States for what had been described as a routine medical checkup. Also in March he met with US President Barack Obama at the White House.
Mills took over as Ghana's president in January 2009. He narrowly won the vote in 2008 by a less than one per cent margin against a candidate from the party of incumbent John Kufuor, widely respected for having bowed out following his two terms in office.
In July last year, Mills was nominated to be the ruling the National Democratic Congress party's presidential candidate for December 2012 elections. The primary represented the first time in the country's history that a sitting president competed for his own party's nomination.
Mills beat his only rival in the party primary, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, the wife of ex-military leader Jerry Rawlings.
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 recently joined the ranks of the world's large-scale oil producers.