Dakar — Former South African President Thabo Mbeki has been named as winner of the Daily Trust African of the Year 2012 award.
Chairman of the award Advisory Board and former President of Tanzania, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, justified the choice of this year's awardee at a news conference during the plenary session of the African Media Leaders Forum in Dakar, Senegal, last night.
He said although the selection committee normally looks for an ordinary African who has done extra-ordinary positive things for the continent, the decision this year was exceptional.
"This year we have decided to choose an already prominent African, and someone who, in the context of the Sudanese crisis, has made what we consider to be an extraordinary contribution", he said.
Dr. Salim, who was Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity (now African Union), said the former South African President was chosen "for his outstanding leadership of the AU Panel on Sudan, his persistent and consistent involvement in the peace process, and the success of the panel in bringing Sudan and South Sudan back from the brink of war".
He said the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan (AUHIP) which Mr. Mbeki headed with former President Pierre Buyoya and General Abdussalami Abubakar, did Africa proud on the Sudanese crisis.
When Sudan and South Sudan came close to war in April this year, he said, Mr. Mbeki and his panel immediately embarked upon a round of comprehensive negotiations which resulted in the signing of nine agreements between Sudanese President Omar El-Bashir and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
Dr. Salim said the selection committee of the award was particularly impressed that the accords signed by the two countries were not only focused on the cessation of hostilities, but also on restarting southern oil exports through the North, reviving cross-border trade, and forging relations in the spirit of African brotherhood.
He expressed the hope that in honouring President Mbeki and the AU High-Level Implementation Panel, the committee was not only recognizing the significant achievement in averting war but hoping that the award will encourage the Sudanese and South Sudanese people, as well as the African Union, to sustain the peace and good neighborliness.
Past winners of the Daily Trust African of the Year award include Dr. Denis Mukwege of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008, the late pan-Africanist Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem of Nigeria in 2009, Mr. Danny Jordaan of South Africa in 2010 and the award last year was given to former Chief Justice Fatima Salifou Bazeye of Niger.
The prize sum of US$50,000 donated by UBA Plc, Africa's global bank, in support of winner's charity project, will be presented at the award ceremony slated for January 22, next year in Abuja. Aside Dr. Salim, the award selection committee includes former member of ECOWAS Parliament and Cabinet Minister in Senegal, Professor Abdoulaye Bathily, and Chairman/CEO of Media Trust Limited (publishers of Daily Trust), Malam Kabiru Yusuf.
Other members are the Director of Development Research Institute, Johannesburg, Professor Tandeka Nkiwane, former Executive Secretary of Kenyan Human Rights Commission, Ms Muthoni Wanyeki, and Ugandan Political Scientist and author, Professor Okello Oculi.