JOHANNESBURG — Ghanaian President John Atta Mills, who vowed that the nation's oil reserves would be used for the good of the people, died Tuesday shortly after becoming ill, officials said.
Mills, who turned 68 on Saturday, had planned to run for a second term as president in December.
According to reports from Ghana, Mills complained of pains Monday and died Tuesday at a military hospital in the capital, Accra. No other details were given, but he was said to be suffering from throat cancer.
Vice President John Dramani Mahama, who was sworn in as president hours after Mills died, said the country was "devastated" by the death.
People cried in the streets of Accra upon hearing the news, the Associated Press reported.
Ghana, which has posted strong growth in recent years, is seen as a beacon of democracy in West Africa. Ghana's main export is cocoa, but the country began oil production two years ago.
President Obama visited in 2009, six months after Mills took office. When Obama received him in the Oval Office in March, the president praised Mills' record as a leader.
Mills' predecessor, John Kufuor, stepped down after two presidential terms. Mills had twice run unsuccessfully for president against Kufuor before capturing the office in 2008 after a runoff vote that was the closest in the country's history. Mills had run on a platform of change.
"People are complaining. They're saying that their standard of living has deteriorated these past years," he told AP at the time. "So if Ghana is a model of growth, it's not translating into something people can feel."
Born in 1944 in Western Ghana, Mills held a law degree from the University of Ghana. He earned a doctorate from London's School of Oriental and African Studies before studying at Stanford University as a Fulbright scholar.
Mills taught at the University of Ghana for many years before entering politics. He also served as vice president to Ghana's military ruler, Jerry Rawlings, from 1997 to 2001.
Mills is survived by his wife, Ernestina Naadu Mills, and their son, Sam Kofi Atta Mills.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times