Former Namibian President Pohamba honoured with 2014 Mo Ibrahim prize

PohambaFormer President of Namibia, Hifikepunye Pohamba has been honoured by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation as the winner of the 2014 Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.

He was presented with the prize in the presence of former several current and former African Heads of State and ministers on the night of Friday November 20, during the Mo Ibrahim governance weekend in Accra, after being found worthy in March 2015 by the independent prize committee chaired by Salim Ahmed Salim, former Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity.

The prize is awarded annually to a former democratically-elected African head of state who demonstrated exceptional leadership while serving their constitutionally-mandated term.

Regarded as the biggest prize in the world, the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership awards an initial $5 million to the winner and $200,000 per annum for life.

Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, the Chair of the committee, said Pohamba demonstrated exemplary leadership while maintaining his humility and respect for political opposition.

“In the decade of his presidential mandate, he demonstrated sound and wise leadership. At the same time he maintained his humility and simplicity throughout the presidency. During his time of office he was committed to the rule of law and respect for the constitution, particularly on the issue of timeliness,” Salim said.

The presentation of the award was the climax to a political tenure that saw the country achieve a near doubling of its GDP, high press freedom and high ratings by Transparency International. During Pohamba’s term, fees for primary education were abolished and women came to constitute 48 per cent of Namibia’s parliament.

Between 2005 and 2013, the country’s HIV prevalence also fell by 36 per cent.

A grateful Pohamba said it was a great honour for him to be the recipient of the award.

He said: “Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to join the distinguished laureates of the prestigious Ibrahim prize. This honour is not for me alone. I accept it with a sense of great humility on behalf of the people of Namibia who entrusted me through democratic processes to lead our country as president with two consecutive terms of five years each.”

The Sudanese businessman, Dr Mo Ibrahim, the founder of the foundation, said it was about time Africa told the story of its exemplary leaders and unsung heroes, and removed the “dark cloud” surrounding Africa as a land of only ruthless dictators.

Recounting an encounter with African youth at the London School of Economics who demonstrated a lack of knowledge of the continent, he said such perceptions about Africa are even prevalent among Africa’s youth who know the continent mainly from the perception of western media.

Interestingly, Mo Ibrahim said he had also met people from across the world who thought Idi Amin was alive and was still ruling in Africa.

He charged African leaders to address a number of key issues:

Economic diversification to guard against falling commodity prices, sound natural resource governance, petroleum subsidies that benefit the rich at the expense of the poor, economic integration and the illicit financial flows out of Africa, which outweigh development assistance to the continent.

By Emmanuel Odonkor

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