(ACCRA, Ghana) — Ghana’s president John Atta Mills has died following a battle with throat cancer. He was 68.
A statement released by his staff on Tuesday called Mills’ death “sudden and untimely,” but the cause of Mills’ death was not announced.
Mills served as Ghana’s president since 2009. He ran for president twice before a third attempt — against Nana Akufo-Addo in December 2008 — finally proved to be the charm, the BBC reported.
He was expected to run for re-election in December.
Vice President John Dramani Mahama is expected to assume the role of president.
The West African country has become a stable democracy and is making economic progress. Leadership is considered vital at this time in Ghana’s history as the country works to put newfound oil wealth to good use and avoid the massive corruption that often follows the discovery of the resource.
In a statement President Obama said, “It was with great regret that I learned of the passing of President John Evans Atta Mills of Ghana.
“I will always remember my trip to Ghana in 2009, and the hospitality that President Mills and the people of Ghana showed to me, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and our entire delegation. I was also pleased to host President Mills in the Oval Office earlier this year,” Obama said.
“President Mills tirelessly worked to improve the lives of the Ghanaian people. He helped promote economic growth in Ghana in the midst of challenging global circumstances and strengthened Ghana’s strong tradition of democracy. Under his leadership, the United States and Ghana deepened our partnership in the promotion of good governance and economic development. He was also a strong advocate for human rights and for the fair treatment of all Ghanaians.
“On behalf of the American people, I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the people of Ghana, and reaffirm the deep and enduring bonds between our democracies that President Mills helped to strengthen.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ivana Kottasova, CNN
Sugam Pokharel and AJ Willingham, CNN