ACCRA, Jan 7 – Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama will be sworn into office on Monday following last month’s polls in a ceremony to be boycotted by the opposition, which has claimed fraud and challenged the results in court.
The 54-year-old Mahama, who initially became head of state after the death of his predecessor John Atta Mills in July, won December 7 elections with 50.7 percent of the vote compared to main opposition candidate Nana Akufo-Addo’s 47.7 percent.
Observer groups hailed the polls as another successful election in the country viewed as a stable democracy in turbulent West Africa, but Akufo-Addo’s party has alleged the vote was stolen.
The stakes were especially high in the election, with the newly elected president in charge of a growing stream of oil revenue.
West Africa’s second-largest economy and a longtime producer of gold and cocoa, Ghana started pumping oil in 2010, and now produces 105,000 barrels per day.
With oil flowing and Ghana’s economy growing at a rate of 14.3 percent in 2011, how Mahama invests the country’s boom money will be closely watched.
While it is considered a lower middle-income country by the World Bank, Ghana continues to struggle with infrastructure development.
Rural areas are plagued with potholed roads and most people rely on fresh water sold in sachets.
Though high-rise malls and apartments are being constructed across the capital Accra, Isaac Owusu-Mensah, a lecture at the University of Ghana, says Mahama will be judged on how much he improves lives for Ghanaians in the far-flung reaches of the country.
“The primary issue that will guide everybody in the run-up to the next four years is how the economy is being managed,” Owusu-Mensah said. “If they don’t utilise (the oil revenue) quite well, there’s going to be a big problem.”
During the campaign, Akufo-Addo had proposed using revenue from oil to pay for free high school, a proposal Mahama and his National Democratic Congress said would be too costly.
Besides managing the increasing revenue, Mahama must also be mindful of the court challenge to his election.
Akufo-Addo, who lost to Mills by less than one percentage point in 2008, has yet to concede defeat.
He has filed a challenge with the supreme court alleging an array of voting improprieties and asking he be declared the winner. Hearings are expected to be held soon.
The NPP is boycotting the swearing-in, and some members of the party called upon former president John Kufuor, a member of the party, to stay away from the ceremony. His office said he plans to attend.
“We are challenging the legitimacy of that election and the winner of which is being sworn-in tomorrow,” said Perry Okudzeto, a spokesman for the opposition party.
“We don’t see why we should be part of the swearing of an ill-elected president.”
The inauguration has attracted at least 12 African heads of state, including heavy-hitters Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and Jacob Zuma of South Africa, as well as delegations of diplomats from the United States and European countries.
Street sweepers are busy picking up trash from Accra’s bustling streets, posters of Mahama’s portrait line major thoroughfares and the seaside Black Star Square, the venue for the swearing-in known for its iconic arches, is being decked out in the Ghanaian flag’s red, green and gold.
Ghana police spokesman Freeman Tetty said police will deploy about 4,000 officers, along with the military, to help control crowds and traffic during the ceremony.
“We’ll put all the measures in place to make sure that (Monday’s) event is a successful one,” Tetty said. “We are not taking security for granted at all.”