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Profile: Ghana President John Atta Mills

John Attah Mills in Accra on 8 December 2008
John Atta Mills is a former member of the national hockey team
It was third time lucky for John Atta Mills as he became President of Ghana after two failed attempts.

The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) might have been forgiven if its faith in him had wavered after he lost twice - against President John Kufuor in 2000 and 2004.

But the NDC was eventually vindicated after overwhelmingly nominating Mr Atta Mills again, ahead of three other contenders, as the party flag-bearer in the presidential elections at the end of 2008.

He narrowly lost the first round vote in December against the then-governing New Patriotic Party's (NPP) candidate Nana Akufo-Addo, who did not pass the 50% threshold needed for outright victory.

In the run-off election later that month Mr Atta Mills came out ahead of his rival by a wafer-thin margin.

But in a poll dogged by cries of foul play from both sides, it took a ballot re-run in the remote rural constituency of Tain before the opposition candidate was finally declared winner of the keys to Golden Jubilee House.

JOHN ATTA MILLS
Age: 64
Party: National Democratic Congress
Executive posts: Vice-president 1997-2000
Profession: University professor
Hobbies: Hockey, swimming
Family: Married with one child

Mr Atta Mills served as vice-president to Jerry Rawlings between 1997 and January 2001 and had previously created a stir by saying that if elected, he would consult with the former president.

But in 2008 he distanced himself from Mr Rawlings, even drawing criticism from his former boss for being too gentle with the NPP.

In contrast to the advertising billboards of his rival NPP candidate, Mr Atta Mills began his campaign with modest-sized signboards bearing the slogan "I Believe in Ghana".

He described himself as a social democrat who leaned broadly on independence leader Kwame Nkrumah's idea of social welfare.

But he pitched a more inclusive and less polarising political platform than both Mr Nkrumah and Mr Rawlings.

Born on 21 July 1944 at Tarkwa in western Ghana, "The Prof", as Mr Atta Mills is known, has pursued a long academic career.

He graduated in law at the University of Ghana in 1967 before pursuing his legal studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

Mr Atta Mills then won a Fulbright scholarship at Stanford Law School in the US.

He later returned to his alma mater the University of Ghana, where he taught for nearly 25 years.

Mr Atta Mills was national tax commissioner under Mr Rawlings before being promoted to the vice-presidency.

He is a keen hockey player, at one time a member of the national team, and also enjoys swimming.

He is married to Ernestina Naadu Mills, a director of education and trained marriage counsellor.

The former second lady-turned-first lady is also a dog-lover who has kept cross-bred Alsatians. The couple have one son, Sam Kofi Atta Mills.

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SEE ALSO
Q&A: Ghana elections
04 Dec 08 |  Africa
Is Ghana's star dimming?
02 Dec 08 |  Africa Have Your Say
Country profile: Ghana
04 Dec 08 |  Country profiles

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