John Atta Mills: Politician who helped secure democracy in Ghana

 

The ascension of John Atta Mills to the presidency of Ghana in 2008 went a long way to consolidating democracy in the country. Following Mills' defeat to John Kufuor in the 2001 election, it was the second time power had been transferred from one legitimate leader to another, an indicator of stability.

He gained a reputation as a man of peace, though many Ghanaians were horrified at the tone of public discourse introduced on radio and television shows by his more rabid propagandists. He served as president as Ghana began grappling with how to deal with its new-found oil wealth from offshore fields discovered in the last five years.

Mills, who had been suffering from throat cancer, owed his elevation to a quirk of circumstance. In 1996, he had been working in Accra as Commissioner of Income Tax when the country's ruler of the time, Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, quarrelled violently with his vice-president, Kow Arkaah, at a Cabinet meeting.

Searching for a new vice-president, Rawlings remembered an audience he'd had with Atta Mills, and the good impression he'd made, and invited Mills to step up. When Rawlings finished his two terms, he persuaded his party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), to adopt Mills.

Mills was defeated twice, in 2000 and 2004, by the National Patriotic Party (NPP) candidate John Kufuor, but despite being mocked as "unelectable", tried his luck a third time, in 2008. Kufuor's two terms were up and Mills faced Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo. The election went to a run-off ballot which, to the astonishment of many, Mills won, albeit by a tiny margin, with 50.23 per cent of the vote.

Mills was a quietly spoken man with a professorial manner, but his mien was deceptive: his work at the Income Tax Department had taught him much about human nature, and although he was humble and kindly, he had an inner steel. He needed all of it to resist Rawlings' attempts to get him to stand down as NDC candidate in the forthcoming December 2012 election in favour of his wife, the former First Lady Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings. The "politically naive" ex-professor had effectively wrested control of the NDC from its founder.

John Evans Atta Mills was born at Tarkwa, in the west of Ghana, in 1944. He read law at the University of Ghana, Legon, then obtained a doctorate at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. A keen sportsman, he had played for the Ghana national hockey team.

After a Fulbright Scholarship at Stanford Law School, Mills became a lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ghana, Legon. He spent nearly 25 years there and at other institutions, rising to associate professor. He was Acting Commissioner of Ghana's Internal Revenue Service 1986 and 1993 and substantive Commissioner from 1993 to 1996.

John Evans Atta Mills, politician: born Tarkwa, Ghana 21 July 1944; Vice-President of Ghana 1997-2001, President 2009-12; married Ernestina Naadu; one son (with Ruby Addo); died Accra 24 July 2012.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Fair trade: the idea of honesty boxes relies on people paying their way
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
News
news
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary