John Atta Mills died suddenly on Tuesday, hours after being rushed to a military hospital. His vice president, John Dramani Mahama, has been sworn in as president for the remaining five months of his term.
Ghana's parliament convened for an emergency session late on Tuesday, swearing in a replacement president after the death of 68-year-old John Atta Mills. It was the first time in Ghana's history that such a move had to be taken following the death of a sitting president.
Chief Justice Georgina Wood performed the ceremony in the capital Accra, appointing John Dramani Mahama as president for the next five months, the remainder of Mills' term.
"This is the saddest day in our nation's history," Mahama said in a televised address to the country's 24.2 million inhabitants. "I never imagined that one day I'll address our nation in such circumstances. I'm personally devastated. I have lost a father and a mentor."
Mills was rushed to a military hospital on Tuesday and died several hours later.
"It is with a heavy heart and deep sorrow that we announce the sudden death of the president of the Republic of Ghana," the initial military statement said.
From taxation theses to top political office
Mills won the Ghanaian presidency in 2008 elections, at the third attempt. He had also pledged to run for re-election this December, and had secured his party's nomination.
World leaders sent their condolences to Ghana, including US President Barack Obama, who chose Accra for his first ever presidential visit to sub-Saharan Africa.
"President Mills tirelessly worked to improve the lives of the Ghanaian people," Obama said in a statement. "He helped promote economic growth and strengthened Ghana's strong tradition of democracy."
Mills visited Obama in the White House earlier in the year, and had also recently returned from medical examinations in the US.
The deceased president was an academic, lecturer and political scientist before moving into Ghanaian politics; colleagues described him as a quiet, diplomatic and religious leader.
Ghana will hold a week of national mourning in Mills' honor, with flags flying at half mast around the country.
msh/ccp (AFP, dpa)