The president of the West African nation of Ghana, John Evans Atta Mills, has died at age 68, according to a statement released by the president's chief of staff on Tuesday.
Mills, who fell ill on Monday night just two days after celebrating his 68th birthday, unexpectedly passed away hours later at a military hospital after going into cardiac arrest, it was revealed.
"It is with a heavy heart ... that we announce the sudden and untimely death of the president of the Republic of Ghana," a statement sent to Reuters by the president's office said.
An anonymous presidential aide confirmed that the president, who reportedly suffered from throat cancer, had complained of pains on Monday evening and died early on Tuesday afternoon after his condition worsened.
Mills, who recently underwent medical checks in the United States, was presumed to be in a stable condition upon his return to Ghana.
U.S. President Barack Obama last had a meeting with Mills during his 2009 visit to Ghana. When Mills visited Washington in early 2012, Obama applauded Ghana, which is said to be the world's second largest cocoa grower, as being a model for democracy and stability.
"Ghana has become a wonderful success story economically on the continent. In part because of the initiatives of President Mills, you've seen high growth rates over the last several years," Obama said. "Food productivity and food security is up. There's been strong foreign investment."
Mills occupied office in 2009, and during his term he oversaw the start of oil production in Ghana.
Thousands flocked to social networking site Twitter where they praised Mills for his democratic leadership.
"Sad to hear of the sudden death of Ghana's president John Atta Mills, one of Africa's more admirable leaders," David Vick tweeted.
"John Attah Mills dead!!! A perfect statesman, a leader not ruler! Our condolences to the good people of Ghana. Adieu John Attah Mills," Mall. Mansur Ringim tweeted.
"My condolences goes to Ghanians worldwide on d loss of a great leader,John Atta-Mills #RIP ," adeyemi rotimi tweeted.