Former President of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano, was Monday named the first winner of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.
The honour will fetch Chissano US$5 million over 10 years, US$200,000 annually for life thereafter and US$200,000 a year for 10 years toward the winner’s public interest activities and good causes.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced the award at a ceremony in London, which was attended by the African diplomatic community, civil society representatives and the media, among others,
“President Chissano’s achievements in bringing peace, reconciliation, stable democracy and economic progress to his country greatly impressed the committee. So, too, did his decision to step down without seeking the third term the constitution allowed,” a statement posted to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation said.
Praising Chissano’s government’s economic progress, poverty reduction programmes, infrastructure development and work to tackle HIV/AIDS, Annan said: “It is his role in leading Mozambique from conflict to peace and democracy that President Chissano has made his most outstanding contribution.”
He also commended Chissano for his “major contribution outside his country’s borders” which included providing “a powerful voice for Africa on the international stage”.
Annan said “the Prize celebrates more than just good governance. It celebrates leadership. The ability to formulate a vision and to convince others of that vision; and the skill of giving courage to society to accept difficult changes in order to make possible a longer term aspiration for a better, fairer future.”
Chisssano served as Head of State of Mozambique from November 1986 to February 2005.
He won his country’s first multi-party elections in 1994 and then again in December 1999, announcing that he would step down from office in 2004.
The historic elections were held just two years after he had helped the country end, through negotiations, the 16-year civil war which had devastated Mozambique, left thousands dead and forced many to flee their homes.
He led a country whose infrastructure and economy were ruined, its society deeply divided and which suffered from sever natural disasters.
The annual Prize was established by the Mo Ibrahim, the Egyptian-born mobile phone entrepreneur and lauched in October 2006 as an African initiative to strengthen governance in Africa.
The winner was selected by the Prize Committee of six eminent individuals, who assessed every sub-Saharan African leader who has left office in the last three full calendar years on their exercise of leadership.
The Committee drew on research from the recently published Ibrahim Index of African Governance, and a range of other sources, to assess the quality of governance in the areas of economic and social development, peace and security, human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The Prize aims to encourage leaders who fully dedicate their tenure of office to surmount the development challenges of their countries, improving the livelihoods and welfare of their people and consolidating the foundation for sustainable development.
On hearing the outcome of the Prize Committee’s deliberations, Mo Ibrahim, the founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Joaquim Chissano has been selected as the first Laureate.
”As a man who has reconciled a divided nation and built the foundations for a stable, democratic and prosperous future for the country, he is a role-model not just for Africa, but for the rest of the world,” Ibrahim said.