|Former President of Ghana, John Evans Atta Mills.|
"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 Mills, who had travelled recently abroad for a medical check-up, died hours after he got sick on Tuesday. He was announced dead, without providing a cause, the presidency said. According to the constitution, Vice President John Dramani Mahama is to take over as interim leader and he is to address the nation shortly.
Mills was to be the ruling party's candidate. The late president had recently travelled to the United States for what had been described as a routine medical check-up. Mills took over as Ghana's president in January 2009 after a narrow win in 2008 with a less than one per cent margin against the opposing candidate.
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.
Mills rose to prominence in 1997 when Rawlings named him vice president - a position he held until the former coup leader-turned-elected president made way for Kufuor after the 2000 elections. After finishing his law studies in Britain, Mills came home to teach law for 25 years at a Ghana university. Ghana, a country of some 25 million people, recently joined the ranks of the world's large-scale oil producers. It was the country chosen by Barack Obama for his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa as US president in 2009.
"I am in tears as I write this message. We, the people of Ghana have lost a father. We will always remember and pray for the peaceful rest of our former president, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills."