ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — John Dramani Mahama became president of Ghana on Monday, sworn in as the opposition continues to dispute election results in one of West African's most stable democracies.
Speaking immediately after completing the oath of office, Mahama promised to work toward making Ghana "less polarized" even as the New Patriotic Party has started a court challenge claiming Nana Akufo-Addo won the Dec. 7 poll. Mahama gave few specifics on how he planned to do it, though he acknowledged the challenges ahead for a nation that has just become an oil producer.
"There's no denying the fact that even after 55 years is Ghana is still a young country," Mahama said at Accra's Independece Square, reading his speech from a tablet computer. "Every young country goes through its share of instabilities and difficulties."
Mahama, the former vice president who took the helm in July following the unexpected death of President John Atta Mills, was elected with an absolute majority of 50.7 percent in the December poll. Akufo-Addo, his main challenger, won 47.7 percent, according to the nation's electoral commission.
The opposition said widespread technical glitches that occurred with the biometric machines used to identify voters through their fingerprints created an opportunity for the ruling National Democratic Congress political party to rig the vote. Officials were forced to extend voting into a second day in scores of polling stations due to the malfunctioning equipment, but despite the disorder caused by the delay, international observers say the vote was transparent overall.
On Dec. 28, the opposition filed a court challenge to the election results.
Ghana, a nation of 25 million on Africa's western seaboard, is one of the few established and stable democracies in the region. It has held five peaceful multiparty elections in a row. The country is also one of the world's largest cocoa producers and just recently began producing crude oil at offshore fields.
In his speech, watched by his countrymen and a variety of African leaders and diplomats, Mahama promised to make Ghana's economic achievements available to all.
"A tremendous amount of work has been done. Nevertheless, there is still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done," Mahama said. "Change does not happen overnight. It will appear to darkest before the dawn of a new day makes that progress visible."
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(Photo: GABRIELA BARNUEVO/EPA /LANDOV)