Ghanaian officials swore in a new president Tuesday, hours after the death of the West African nation’s leader.
Related Article: Breaking News: Ghana President, Atta Mills Is Dead
John Evans Atta Mills died suddenly at a military hospital Tuesday afternoon a few hours after becoming ill, Chief of Staff John Henry Martey Newman said in a statement. He was 68.
In a ceremony broadcast on state television, John Dramani Mahama – formerly Ghana’s vice president – became the country’s new president and ordered that flags be flown at half-staff for a week.
“This is the saddest day in our nation’s history. Tears have engulfed our nation and we’re deeply saddened and distraught. I never imagined that one day I will address our nation in such difficult circumstances,” Mahama said. “I’m personally devastated. I’ve lost a father, I’ve lost a friend, I’ve lost a mentor and a senior comrade.”
Officials did not specify what caused Mills’ death. The president had denied rumors about his health for months. “Does my continued living pose a threat to some people?” he told reporters at a January event, according to the state-run Ghana News Agency.
Mahama said Tuesday that Mills was a “prince of peace” who “brought a distinctive insight into Ghanaian politics.” The opposition New Patriotic Party expressed condolences in a statement Tuesday. “We join the nation in mourning this sad loss to Ghana,” the statement said.
Mahama, 53, is a former member of Ghana’s parliament who has served as director of communication for the National Democratic Congress party. On Tuesday, the new president called on Ghanaians to respect Mills’ legacy. “Our finest tribute to him at this moment is to maintain the unity and stability of our nation,” Mahama said.