President John Atta Mills 30


I am very sorry that President John Atta Mills of Ghana has died today. He was a good and straightforward man whose Christian faith was absolutely central to the way he conducted himself. He completed the task of making Ghana a meaningful democracy, by taking the NDC completely away from the politics of fear and intimidation. While I thought his Presidency a little too conservative and non-dynamic, there are much worse faults. His country should be grateful for his period of calm and consolidation. I think calm is how he will be remembered; there are much worse qualities.

Ghana has been lucky in having John Kuffour and John Atta Mills as Presidents in its democratic era, and is further lucky to have John Mahama, whom I know well for fifteen years and greatly respect, to step in now as President. It has been my peculiar chance in life to get to know nearly all the senior Ghanaian and a great many of the senior British politicians personally. There can be no doubt that the Ghanaians are a great deal more impressive.

In a few months the Presidential election will be between John Mahama and Nana Akuffo Addo. Either one of them is worth six of David Cameron.

I sincerely hope that President Mills finds his place in the heaven he believed in so completely.


30 thoughts on “President John Atta Mills

  • Mary

    Condolences to the people of Ghana on the loss of their President.

    .
    What a poor obituary for President Atta Mills on the BBC website. Says it all about their priorities. Have they even got a reporter in Ghana?
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-18972107
    .
    As for John Mahama and Nana Akuffo Addo each being worth more than six of Cameron, Cameron is just a spiv. I think of him in turn as one of those 1950s department store floorwalkers or an estate agent or property developer.
    .
    Wikipedia have Mr Mahama as the new President. He sounds good.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dramani_Mahama

  • craig Post author

    Mary

    John was sworn in today. He features quite a lot in The Catholic Orangemen of Togo – in a good way!

  • John Goss

    “There can be no doubt that the Ghanaians are a great deal more impressive.”
    .
    It wouldn’t take much to be a lot more impressive than our corrupt lot of leaders!
    They are the ones who instructed the High Court Judges to try and get Julian Assange extradited to Sweden as a stepping stone to their masters the US of A. But here is a documentary everyone should watch. Sorry if it’s already been posted I’ve been working away.
    .
    http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2012/07/19/3549280.htm

  • Tom Welsh

    “Ghana has been lucky in having John Kuffour and John Atta Mills as Presidents in its democratic era, and is further lucky to have John Mahama, whom I know well for fifteen years and greatly respect, to step in now as President”.

    As someone who is abysmally ignorant of African affairs, I can only wonder. Could it be more than luck? Is it true that people tend to get the government they deserve? But then, why would the people of Ghana be so much more deserving than the people of, say, Nigeria?

  • glenn_uk

    Very sad that a decent person has passed away. However, his Christian faith had – I am certain – nothing whatsoever to do with his decency. Bush was a fanatical Christian. So was Blair. Cameron claims the same. So does Obama.
    .
    Why is it that when someone is decent and declares themselves a Christian, that’s proof of their Christian values guiding them, but when murderous swine and war criminals (Hitler, Reagan etc.) are Christians, it’s dismissed as nothing to do with their actions? Bit of a “No true Scotsman” fallacy at work, I fear.
    .
    No – this Mills fellow was decent because he was decent. He happened to be a Christian in the same way he happened to have a particular taste in music, usually to do with culture and upbringing. It’s selling him short to say he was decent _because_ of Christianity. It would be a more fitting compliment to say he was decent despite it.

  • kingfelix

    @Glenn-uk
    .
    Your argument, such as it is, does not stack up.
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    For one, just as you take umbrage at the tendency to accept that someone declaring they are Christian is sufficient proof of Christian values guiding them, you then come out with your own equally baseless assertion that ‘Mills was decent because he was decent’ and ‘It’s selling him short to say he was decent _because_ of Christianity. It would be a more fitting compliment to say he was decent despite it.’
    .
    Have you ever actually met any committed Christians? They can exist in all walks of life, including, yes, as top-flight politicians. I doubt there moral framework differs greatly from your own, if you are law-abiding, endeavour to treat other people fairly, and have a sense of the worth of human life and the importance of mitigating suffering.
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    That there are a few politicians cynical enough to make use of a posture of being religious, and, worse, that will sanction their warmongering as being the result of the Almighty’s counsel, yes, that has happened and it was shameful. Shameful that somebody did that, shameful that so many believed it. But that cynicism is no excuse for your own cynicism.
    .
    I get the impression you’ve not been to Africa (maybe I’m wrong). You should go. I held similar views before I went and lived and worked in the developing world, it would do you good to have them challenged.

  • Mary

    There was a good piece on the World Service in the night but I can’t find a link just now. The people in Accra were deeply affected. He was obviously loved. I cannot see tears being shed for any of our lot in the event of their demise.
    .
    This is his widow speaking in May last year.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p007l93r for the last 5 mins ie 18mins in
    Ghana’s First Lady
    As part of our series on the power behind the Presidents of five African countries – Veronique Edwards from the BBC’s African Service travels to Ghana for a rare conversation with Ernestina Naadu Mills – wife of the President Professor John Atta Mills. The former teacher discusses her deep passions for gardening, dogs and educating the young people of her country.
    .
    She sounds so likeable and very jolly.

  • Abe Rene

    Could you list the main ways in which John Mahama and other Ghanaian politicians are more impressive than David Cameron and other British politicians? Just so we know.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq Association

    Yes Craig John Mahama impressed me with his great dislike of Britain’s colonial powers. His father was imprisoned during the 1966 coup when Ghana’s founding president Kwame Nkrumah was ousted in a military coup. Three years later as I sailed around the West coast of African on HMS London I noted the huge difference even then between the extreme poverty I witnessed in Freetown, Sierra Leone and the dangerous situation there that prevented any exploration compared to the tranquility and future oil rich wealth of Accra, Ghana.
    .
    I still cannot comprehend the huge divide.

  • craig Post author

    Abe Rene,

    Humility, breadth of experience and vision and intellectual grasp to start with. And being nice people.

  • glenn_uk

    Kingfelix:
    .
    Thank you for your reply (such that it is), but I fear you are extremely naive as far as Christianity is concerned. You state that Christians don’t have a much different moral framework than my own – I strongly disagree.
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    For instance, I don’t go around condemning gays and same-sex marriage as “grotesque madness” (from the Cardinal O’Brian recently) in Britain, all the way to calling for their deaths and persecution in Africa.
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    I also don’t go around claiming that contraception is evil and spreads AIDS, like Christian missionaries do in Africa.
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    Furthermore, I don’t facilitate pedophile priests, paying them off and covering up their crimes on an institutional basis. Nor do I put fear into children by telling them lies such as, for example, they will burn in hell for eternity for thinking the wrong thoughts, or doubting ancient fairy tale nonsensical superstitions about sky-spooks.
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    Nor do I agree with the Christianisation of the military – the US air force in particular – where baptisms take place on bases, guns have religious references inscribed on them, and chaplins stand next to commanders, telling the recruits about the glorious Holy War they are fighting.
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    This is just a smattering of the harm Christianists are undertaking this very day. What about the blood-drenched history of Christianity?
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    Perhaps you missed out on learning of the Crusades which has not exactly left a good impression in much of the world, not to mention the Inquisition which burned millions of women (in particular) to death around Europe through the dark ages. A period of observance many long to return to, no doubt.
    .
    As it happens, I held Christianity in a high regard, similar to your own, before becoming vastly more enlightened on the subject.

  • kingfelix

    “but I fear you are extremely naive as far as Christianity is concerned”
    .
    Well, I have worked with hundreds of members of religious groups, from Argentinian nuns, through indigenous Guatemalans, Mormons, Philippine sisters, Benedictine monks, and a selection from the African continent. Your experience? Reading The Daily Mail? Listening to Dawkins?
    .
    I don’t mind if you hold different views through direct experience, but if you’re just aggregating stuff from the news media, then our differences are epistemological, and, for me, don’t stack up against lived experience.
    .
    My mother and father both suffered inside Catholic institutions. I am aware of the dangers of those who feel they act with God on their side. However, I am also aware of the dangers of people such as yourself, who use events which, though widespread, in no way account for the totality of the contribution that religiously committed people make to societies all over the globe.
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    Really, the more I contemplate your two ‘contributions’, the more mystified I am that you might charge me with naivete.
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    For every example you cite, I could cite a positive example. For example, one group I have supported is SOA Watch, a group led by Father Ray Bourgeois, a theologian deeply committed to non-violence, who is waging a decades-long struggle to shut down WHINSEC (formerly The School of the Americas). One of their members has just emerged from a 6 month jail sentence for climbing over a security fence at WHINSEC.
    .
    Likewise, my own small contribution to the aid sector has brought me into contact with people doing good work. The good work rarely makes the news, though, which is why your approach of spitting out news stories does not impress me much.
    .
    As a powerful social glue in poverty-stricken countries, religion serves a critical function, and the sense of communion that flows between rich and poor nations is often beneficial. I know there are the problems with religious extremists, with right-wing US protestants spreading hatred through Africa, with the homophobia and the assault on women’s rights. But your second comment does not manage to list a single good thing about the enormous quantity of good works that are performed daily by Christians, on the front lines in the most vulnerable communities. I am not a believer in any God, but one thing’s for sure, the Dawkins/Hitchens type of atheist, who posit that religion is bad, well, they’re not really anywhere to be seen when their are HIV+ people laying in semi-permanent vegetative states to care for 24/7, or when there are a bunch of disowned kids in a shelter desperate for somebody to play with them and show some interest.
    .
    As for the Crusades and the Conquest, I studied the Conquest while at university in Guatemala. Picking out its religious dimension is only one aspect. If you were genuinely interested, you could examine the controversy between Bartolome de las Casas and Sepulveda, which basically rehearses the arguments over the rights by which the West intervenes in the affairs of other countries. You’d learn that arguments that began within the church have shifted with political changes and become lodged inside different institutions and cloaked in different language, so today, when I see Hillary Rodham Clinton spouting about intervening to ‘protect human rights’ in Middle Eastern countries, I can see the linkages back to the Conquest and appreciate that what then had a religious justification, today is justified by ‘universal values’. The point being that religion was never much more than a rhetorical tool, to be dropped as soon as it lost its mojo.
    .
    But it seems as if I am addressing somebody with a complete lack of good grace and a basic conception of civil discourse, so I’ll stop now. What I wrote might be of interest to a better class of humanoid than your uncouth self, who is adept at trotting out a procession of religion’s crimes, but doesn’t appear to have quite the same facility when it comes to his manners.

  • kingfelix

    “As it happens, I held Christianity in a high regard, similar to your own, before becoming vastly more enlightened on the subject.”
    .
    Most amusing. You’re a condescending tool.

  • kingfelix

    I should’ve held back, but you wrote such one-sided nonsense and then dressed it up as if you had provided me with some sort of educational service.

  • Nextus

    Don’t judge Christianity by the standards of the neutered and warped Church of England, which serves the individual and the corporations more than the community. Or the right-wing supremacist evangelicals.
    .
    Accra is a good place to see the positive side of Christianity. The streets are liberally peppered with churches, and Christians run up to wish you well as you walk by. The churches have vast social welfare and education programmes supporting the disadvantaged, and provide an firm ethical framework that binds societies together. You can feel safer walking in downtown Accra than in South London.

  • Jon

    @Kingfelix – you and Glenn are both long-term and valued contributors here, but please avoid direct name-calling. Glenn’s point to you was surely robust, but don’t cause it to spiral into a fight. If you are at opposite ends of the spectrum on a topic, then make your points, and agree to disagree 🙂

  • Jon

    In relation to the piece, it is an interesting question as to why Ghanaian politicians are more decent than our British counterparts. However, I think most ordinary people are fundamentally good, and so it is perhaps a better question to ask how Western democracy facilitates the few who are so bereft of decency.
    .
    I don’t mean to make this point about Cameron, even though I regard him as completely detached from the man on the street. A basic amorality seems to infect most MPs, of all political stripes.

  • glenn_uk

    Kingfelix: Thank you for your reply, and sorry that you felt insulted. That was not my intent, surely no more than it was yours when telling me my arguments didn’t stack up, and implied my lack of your sort of relevant experience had denied me any useful wisdom on the matter. FWIW, in my “becoming vastly more enlightened” comment, I was referring to myself while compared with my earlier blind faith for religion. Not “more enlightened” compared with you. I used to be a fully believing Christian before studying it to some degree (in order, ironically enough, to make myself a better Christian).
    .
    Your lived experiences are very useful, of course, but are you sure you compare these Christian communities fairly with non-Christian cultures? The co-orporative nature comes from a sense of community and decency, they don’t need a Bible to tell them to behave this way. Most of the many aboriginal tribes had a strong sense of morality long before religious teachings came along.
    .
    Father Bourgeois is a brave and principled man. He’s a very good example of someone if you want to refer to decent Christians. However, in the SotA you’ll find an awful lot of people also claiming to be Christians. Mother Theresa, on the other hand, is not. Her main role was saving souls, not lives, and she did not believe in alleviating suffering (except for herself, when she was dying). Much money was sent to her which went straight to the Pope – money that was intended for good works, not bolstering the coffers of the Catholic church.
    .
    Note that while you chastise me for failing to mention the good works some people who happen to be Christians do, you have not mentioned one positive thing about non-Christians! On the contrary, you castigate “Dawkins/Hitchens” types as being are nowhere to be seen when care for others is needed. That’s a pretty bold assertion. Just as a minor example, I donated £500 to Dawkins’ aid fund for Haiti which he set up following their recent earthquake. But surely we can’t be really held to task for omitting some point or other, on such a vast subject, in the course of a few posts.
    .
    I’m curious that – while not being a believer yourself – you are very happy for people who don’t know better to be deluded by primitive mumbo-jumbo, which places them in a dangerously vulnerable position. As you must know, and I think this comes from Voltair, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit attrocities.” Much in the way of the latter has been done in the name of religion, and I’m not sure people could have done such evil were it not for a belief that it was God’s work they were undertaking. Good works, people so inclined would likely do anyway. Some of the greatest evil perpetrated as a result of these beliefs was in telling children that they – and their families – would roast in hell if they spoke of the abuse they were suffering. That isn’t just doing evil because you think God wants it – it’s using religion to deliberately do wrong. The very existence of religion allows for this.
    .
    Still, it is good to discuss these things.

  • Clark

    After the anti-Blair demo, I was feeling very down and shaken up. A man noticed, and asked me how I was. I answered him honestly, and we then chatted for about about hour. he really did me good and cheered me up. He said he’d started going to church and saying his prayers. He never said which church, sounded like normal Christianity. He said he’d become a lot calmer, nicer to people, kept out of trouble now.
    .
    It seems to me that religion is pretty random. Some people use it as an excuse to themselves to justify feelings they already have. Some use it to manipulate others or as some authority to criticise arbitrary groups. Many people profess belief, but it has no noticeable effect on their lives. People who use it badly would likely find different excuses if it wasn’t there. For some, it proves to be a useful tool for self improvement.
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    Sincere practice of prayer involves regular reflection upon one’s own behaviour, in search of failings and to find ways to improve. I believe that such a discipline can aid the development of the conscience.
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    Imagine a morally perfect being that can know everything you did, your every thought and feeling; what would you have to say for yourself, and what might they be saying back? It seems obvious to me that regularly practising that can help people improve themselves. The morally perfect being doesn’t have to actually exist for it to work. In fact, the practice itself helps to bring improved moral consciousness into, well, consciousness, if you see what I mean.
    .
    Now, If I use “a personal relationship with God” as shorthand for the previous paragraph, are the atheists going to bite my head off again?

  • Clark

    What if I go further, and say that God means “good”, or if I say “God is love”? Can I say that prayer brings God-goodness-love into existence, and God-goodness-love creates the possibility of prayer?
    .
    If I point out that this is very similar to the quantum measurement problem, that the only things we find in the Universe are those that we observe, that observation creates the things, and the things make possible observation?
    .
    Can I now also call God “The Creator”? That goodness makes, and making is good? Or will Nextus and Angrysoba call me mad? Let’s find out…

  • nevermind

    Good to hear that Ghana has a future under John kuffour, whats good for the people, has to be good for him.
    .
    Clark, to extend your thought, can we be good without believing in a god? I strongly believe so. Human beings have essentially got their earliest ancestors abilities still in them, being part of a tribe, or being social respecting the family rank, its the monkey in us that make’s us human.
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    That some human encouraged poetry and others war shows the wide spectrum we all are partial to, each according to their cultural background.
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    religions only came very late on to the scene and their morals did not always concur with their actions, then and especially now, the fable of religion somehow induces moral rectitude of the worst kind, i.e. they believe that their believe in god will give them absolution, such notion is not human, it is the same mindset that says ‘we are not responsible for the murders on the high seas, we can get away with it.’
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    If fundamentalist Christianity does not reform itself, just as some fundamentalist branches of Islam, it will perish in the fire of its own making.
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    That said, I’m out cleaning my own windows…:(

  • Clark

    Nevermind, I do strongly believe that for almost everyone, ruthlessly honest self-reflection is essential for moral self improvement. As I said, the perfect, all powerful moral being that one engages with in prayer doesn’t actually have to exist for the self-discipline to work.
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    However, if one practices in that fashion, and experiences the self improvement, it will seem just as if “the Almighty” is actually helping them.
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    This was an important part of Jesus’ teachings. He said, you don’t need any priests to tell you what God is saying, talk to God yourself. And if any human tells you to ignore the internal voice of your conscience and do what they say instead, don’t trust that human.
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    Buddhism also teaches: reflect and become calm and quiet within, and you will learn deep compassion. But don’t take our word for it; practice, and you will find the same as we have found.
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    The scientific method say, do not accept anyone’s word that the world is structured in a particular way. Design an experiment, put the question to Nature, and accept the answer. But remind yourself that your intelligence is probably inadequate to the task of understanding. A further experiment may overturn what you thought you’d proved.
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    People who use authority (“divine” or human) to impose belief or behaviour contradict conscience.

  • Clark

    Nevermind, I hope that today, you find joy and satisfaction in cleaning your own windows. I must vacuum my own house. I’m always a little suspicious of people who simply pay to have others clear up after them, and never need to face their own mess.

  • nevermind

    I’m smiling already, Clark indeed the experience on top of the ladder, the sunshine and banter with the neighbours has encouraged me to do Tracey’s next door as well, so there.
    .
    being a slug, in this hot weather must make hoovering an arduous week long affair for you…;)

    wonder how our indefatigable dragon does it? with his tail?

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