In a snub to recent ex-presidents and heads of state, organizers of a multimillion-dollar prize that celebrates good governance on the African continent have decided not to bestow the award this year, the Associated Press reports.
Created in 2007 by the London-based Mo Ibrahim Foundation, the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership honors a former African head of state who has demonstrated leadership that improves the prospects of people on the continent. Recipients of the prize, who receive $5 million over ten years and $200,000 annually for life thereafter, must be democratically elected and have left office within the past three years. The first two recipients of the prize were former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano and Botswana's former president, Festus Gontebanye Mogae.
According to Ibrahim Foundation board member and former Botswana president Ketumile Masire, the committee considered "some credible candidates" for this year's prize but could not settle on a winner. While unable to discuss the committee's deliberations, Masire said the foundation "noted the progress made with governance in some African countries, while noting with concern recent setbacks in other countries." Politicians who met the award criteria this year include former South African president Thabo Mbeki, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, and ex-Ghanaian president John Kufuor.
Although Mo Ibrahim, who founded the African telecommunications company Celtel International, noted that he intended for there to be years when a winner is not chosen, the move surprised some experts, who said the award should be used as an encouragement to good governance. Others saw the decision as a wake-up call.
"We're seeing in places from Senegal to Libya attempts to pass power from father to son, and it's been a year of coups in places like Madagascar and Mauritania and Guinea," said Reed Brody, a legal counselor for Human Rights Watch. "It hasn't been a great year for democracy in Africa. Maybe that's what they were trying to say."