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Thursday, September 19, 2019
Outgoing Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba was Monday named winner of the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, believed to be the most lucrative individual award in the world.
The award, with an initial $5 million prize and an annual $200,000 gift for life, “recognises and celebrates African leaders who have developed their countries, lifted people out of poverty and paved the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity,” according to organisers the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.
The foundation, founded by and named after the Sudanese born philanthropist, grants the award to democratically elected African heads of state or government who have left office democratically in the previous three years, served their constitutionally mandated term, and demonstrated “exceptional leadership.”
At the event in Nairobi, President Pohamba was named just the fourth winner of the prize since its inception in 2007, and the first winner since 2011.
“During the decade of Hifikepunye Pohamba’s Presidency, Namibia’s reputation has been cemented as a well-governed, stable and inclusive democracy with strong media freedom and respect for human rights,” said Salim Ahmed Salim, Chair of the Prize Committee.
“President Pohamba’s focus in forging national cohesion and reconciliation at a key stage of Namibia’s consolidation of democracy and social and economic development impressed the Prize Committee.”
Pohamba became president of Namibia in 2004, and will be succeeded later in March by president-elect Hage Geingob.
On Twitter, the foundation wrote that Namibia has “shown improvement in 10 out of 14 sub-categories of the [Ibrahim Index of African Government],”a framework that calculates good governance in areas including rule of law, human rights, economic opportunity and human development.
Mohamed ‘Mo’ Ibrahim called Pohamba “a role model for the continent.”
“He has served his country since its independence and his leadership has renewed his people’s trust in democracy. His legacy is that of strengthened institutions through the various initiatives introduced during his tenure in office,” he said.
The Ibrahim prize is not awarded unless judges can find a candidate of sufficient quality.
Former Mozambique president Joaquim Chissano was the inaugural winner in 2007, followed by Botswana president Festus Mogae in 2008. The next and most recent winner was Pedro Pires, former president of Cape Verde, in 2011 after judges did not award the prize in 2009 or 2010. Prizes were not awarded in 2012 and 2013.
Nelson Mandela was granted an honorary prize in 2007.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera, Ibrahim said the prize would only be awarded to deserving candidates.
“It is a prize for excellence in leadership. We are not lowering our standards,” he said.
“If this prize was offered to European presidents and leaders, how many … would have won this prize in the last eight years?”
Edited by Roger Hamilton-Martin
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