ACCRA, Jan 7 – Nana Akufo-Addo is to be sworn in as Ghana’s new president on Saturday after beating incumbent leader John Dramani Mahama in elections last month.
The 72-year-old former human rights lawyer will take the oath of office at a ceremony in Independence Square in central Accra before more than 6,000 guests and members of the public.
Some 11 heads of state from across Africa are expected to attend, as well as the outgoing president, and former leaders John Rawlings and John Kufuor.
Police in the capital have vowed to enforce tight security during the inauguration, with major roads in and around the venue cordoned off.
Traders have already set up their stalls nearby hoping to cash in on the ceremony by selling Ghana flags and paraphernalia from Akufo-Addo’s New Patriotic Party.
Akufo-Addo’s electoral victory — and the peaceful transition of power — underlined Ghana’s position as a beacon of stability in an often turbulent region.
– ‘Gold standard for democracy’ –
One international observer described the West African country as a “gold standard for democracy in Africa”.
The new president told AFP that after smooth handovers of power in his home country and places such as Nigeria, leaders wanting to stay in office at all costs were “fighting the tide of history”.
In Nigeria — known for contested elections and its violent aftermath — Goodluck Jonathan made an unprecedented concession to Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
But in the week of Akufo-Addo’s election, beaten president Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia promised to challenge the results of elections that he had previously accepted.
Elsewhere on the continent, there are numerous examples of leaders wanting to amend the constitution to ensure more years in power.
Buhari and other African leaders will meet for talks after the inauguration to discuss the crisis in The Gambia caused by Jammeh’s refusal to step down.
“A major decision on the impasse is expected to be taken at that all-important meeting,” Buhari’s spokesman Garba Shehu told reporters in Abuja.
“President Buhari is the chief mediator in the crisis and he is committed to ensuring that the logjam is resolved.”
Akufo-Addo has vowed to put the West African nation “back on the path of progress and prosperity” after an economic slump under Mahama that led to an International Monetary Fund bail-out.
This week Mahama defended his record, saying his government had been up against “strong headwinds” that caused growth to slow, public sector debt to rise and the cedi currency to fall.
But the 58-year-old encouraged Ghanaians to get behind Akufo-Addo and on Wednesday showed his successor round the seat of government, Flagstaff House, in Accra.