Ghana’s “Black Star” democracy shone amidst its sadness as Vice President John Dramani Mahama was sworn into the office of the presidency on Tuesday, July 24, 2012, just hours after the death of President John Evans Atta Mills was confirmed.

John Atta Mills, president of Ghana since 2009, shrugged off rumors of his deteriorating health for most of his term.  Whispers of the weakening of his voice circulating throughout his presidency, it is speculated that the 68-year-old received medical treatments for throat cancer in the United States shortly before his death.  Nonetheless, Atta Mills’ dedication to Ghana’s advancement did not waver and promised to resume his presidential campaign in the upcoming December elections, a reelection bid that can regretfully no longer come to fruition.

Speaker of Parliament Joyce Bamford Addo read a prayer before swearing in Mahama as the fifth democratic Ghanaian president during an emergency sitting.   And in testament to the nation’s commitment to democracy, parliamentary minority leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu proclaimed, “Let the event unite this nation,” upon the inauguration.

The peaceful transition of power in Ghana was regarded as a triumph on the continent, which has seen both democratic peace and autocratic turmoil this year.

Although sorrow engulfed Ghanaians as news of their leader’s passing moved through the nation.   Bloggers paid tribute to the late humble professor president and poets sent their love through dirge, wishing Atta Mills a peaceful journey as he goes on to greet (Kwame) Nkrumah for us.

The mourning of President Atta Mills extended in all directions, beyond Accra and the boundaries of Ghana across the continent to Nairobi and over the waters of Atlantic to Washington, D.C.  President Barack Obama praised the fallen president calling him a “strong advocate for human rights and for the fair treatment of all Ghanaians.”

Indeed most agree that Ghana became stronger under Atta Mills’ administration.  Prioritizing socio-economic development and infrastructure, Ghana rose to become one of the world’s largest oil producers and through his insight and leadership did not fall prey to the traps of the resource curse that plague the nation’s neighbors.

Now charged to serve the remainder of President Atta Mills’ tenure until December 2012, Mahama succeeds a much beloved president who led the nation of 25 million to unprecedented success.

A grieving Ghana will soon have to turn its attentions towards the continuation of its democracy as it prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections.  While Ghana decides the direction of its political process later this year, the words and legacy of President John Evans Atta Mills live on to guide them.

“Remember to always stand up for the truth and to always do your best for our dear country.” — President John Evans Atta Mills

 Jamila Aisha Brown is a freelance writer, political commentator, and social entrepreneur.  Her entrepreneurship, HUE, provides consulting solutions for development projects throughout the African diaspora.  You can follow her on Twitter and engage with HUE, LLC.