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January 7, 2013 4:10 pm
John Dramani Mahama was sworn in as Ghana’s president on Monday in a ceremony boycotted by the opposition, which disputed the results of the December poll.
Mr Mahama, 54, took the oath of office in the Black Star Square in Accra, watched by heads of state of some of Africa’s most powerful countries, including Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa.
The high-profile guests reflected Ghana’s status as one of the continent’s more mature democracies, with power having changed hands peacefully twice in the past 12 years. Its economy was forecast to grow by more than 8 per cent last year.
In his speech, Mr Mahama tried to set aside the controversy over his election win, pledging to work for all Ghanaians.
“Ghana should and will be a place where economic opportunities are available to everyone,” Mr Mahama said. “I will work to ensure that Ghana is a place where all our citizens, regardless of faith, ethnicity and political affiliation, will have the opportunities available to them to reach their full potential.”
Mr Mahama took over as president last July, after the death of John Atta Mills. He won 50.7 per cent of votes in the election, compared with 47.7 per cent for his nearest challenger, Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic party, who also narrowly lost the 2008 vote.
Mr Akufo-Addo has challenged the results in a case at the country’s supreme court, alleging discrepancies between figures recorded at the polling stations and those announced by the electoral commission. Hearings have not yet started.
Observers said the poll was free and fair.
The New Patriotic party boycotted the swearing-in ceremony, with Mr Akufo-Addo and the freshly elected MPs staying away. But former president John Kufour, a member of the party, defied calls to remain at home.
Ghana became Africa’s newest oil exporter in 2010. Revenues from its Jubilee field, plus strong production of cocoa and gold, helped push economic growth to 14.4 per cent in 2011. Though oil production has been below expectations, at about 85,000 barrels per day, it is expected to increase over the next few years.
Mr Mahama’s National Democratic Congress party is regarded as less commerce- friendly than the main opposition, but he said on Monday that he wanted to “assure the Ghanaian business community that I will be your ally”.
During his campaign, the former communications minister pledged to improve the country’s infrastructure, including power supply and the dilapidated road network. On Monday he also promised to build more schools and hospitals. Despite the impressive economic growth and an expanding middle class, about half of Ghana’s 25m people still live on less than $2 a day.
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