Yesterday afternoon, the radio (which is always on in our office) brought news that Ghana’s President, John Atta Mills, had died. The official statement from his office reported that the death was sudden, but foreign media outlets are reporting that he suffered from a long battle with cancer that handlers repeatedly denied was happening.
This unprecedented event in Ghana’s democracy has thus far demonstrated great national unity and strength, which is particularly notable in this region of the world. When I asked co-workers what would happen, replied that the vice president would take over according to the constitution’s rules, there would be a period of mourning, and December’s elections would go forward as scheduled. Indeed, that process is underway. Last night, a visibly shaken vice president John Dramani Mahama took the presidential oath in front of Parliament. While I noticed many market stalls had shuttered their doors early yesterday evening, business seems to move on continued as usual today, though somberly. Flags are at half mast and many people are wearing outfits of traditional black and red to signify mourning
So far, I have heard nothing but resolve from Ghanaians that this is no the occasion for unrest or political opportunism. On my little cell phone that conveniently plays radio, I’ve listened as programs have aired updates, played mourning songs, and read out text messages coming in from across the country. Presenters have outright stated that they will not read anything with a divisive tone. Last night, broadcasts from religious leaders all highlighted that the deceased president was a peaceful man and Ghanaians should celebrate his life.
Here’s a nice article from the New York Times.