Cape Town — Joaquim Chissano, the former president of Mozambique, is the first recipient of a new, high-profile prize to reward exemplary leadership by recently-retired African heads of government.
Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced in London today that Chissano has been awarded the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. Chissano will receive U.S. $5 million over the next 10 years, and $200,000 annually for the rest of his life.
In addition, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation will pay up to U.S. $200,000 a year towards activities and causes identified by Chissano. The prize exceeds the Nobel Peace Prize in value.
Quoting from the prize committee's citation, Annan – who chaired the committee – said today: "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."
The prize is the brainchild of Sudanese-born telecommunications mogul Mo Ibrahim, whose foundation earlier this year launched the "Ibrahim Index of African Governance". The index is taken into account in adjudicating the prize.
When Ibrahim announced the prize last year, he told AllAfrica in an interview that it was important that Africans held their leaders accountable: "The message is that… it is time for us to take charge of our issues," he said. "It is our responsibility to look after our continent, to look after our kids."
The prize committee said Chissano had taken office in 1994, leading a country "whose infrastructure and economy were ruined, its society deeply divided and which suffered from severe natural disasters."
His most outstanding contribution was to lead Mozambique from conflict to peace and democracy: "It is a measure of the remarkable change that has taken place that national and regional elections have been contested in a generally peaceful manner by both sides in the bitter civil war. This remarkable reconciliation between opponents provides a shining example to the rest of the world, and is testament to both his strength of character and his leadership."
Mozambique's economy had been "one of Africa's emerging success stories" and although it was still one of the world's poorest countries, poverty levels had fallen, more children were being educated, health care had improved and women had been empowered.
"Solid efforts have been made to rebuild hospitals and schools destroyed during the prolonged civil war," the judges added. "The government showed strong leadership in trying to tackle the HIV/ Aids epidemic."
The prize committee also comprised Martti Ahtisaari (former UN special representative for Namibia and former president of Finland), Aïcha Bah Diallo (former minister of education in Guinea and special adviser to the director-general of UNESCO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (former finance and foreign minister of Nigeria), Mary Robinson (former president of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) and Salim Ahmed Salim (former prime minister of Tanzania and former secretary-general of the Organisation of African Unity).
For more information, read the press statement.