Mr Atta Mills, 64, took his oath of allegiance in front of thousands of people in Independence Square for the inauguration in the capital, Accra.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) candidate beat the ruling party’s Nana Akufo-Addo in a hotly contested poll by a margin of less than 0.5% of votes.

President John Kufuor has stood down after serving the maximum two terms.

He is the second elected head of state in Ghana’s history to hand over to an opposition politician.

The BBC’s Will Ross in the Accra says there is a carnival atmosphere in the capital.Crowds began forming at the stadium before dawn – decked out in the national colours of green,

yellow, red and black – amid an air of intense excitement after one of the closest election races in Africa’s recent history.

Mr Atta Mills was dressed in a local kente cloth woven in the national colours, Reuters news agency reports.

After he was sworn in, he raised up the State Sword – representing government authority – to cheers from the crowd, the agency said.A military unit then fired off a booming 21-gun salute.

“It is a dawn of a new era for Ghana and I hope to tap the experiences of the two former presidents… to build a better Ghana,” AFP news agency quotes Mr Ata Mills as saying in his first address as president, referring to Mr Kufuor and his predecessor, Jerry Rawlings.

There were loud cheers when he thanked the man he narrowly beat in the election.

“During the elections Ghana’s democracy was stretched to the limits but at the end of the day the sovereign will of the people prevailed,” he said.



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