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 but he said there are 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 Independence Square, reading his speech from a tablet computer, surrounded by giant flags of red, yellow and green. "Every young country goes through its share of instabilities and difficulties," he said.
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.
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 six 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.
But even Ghana is not immune to suspicions of electoral fraud and distrust of the country's relatively new democratic institutions. 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.
On Dec. 28, the opposition filed a court challenge to the election results.