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Johnson Sirleaf wins Mo Ibrahim Achievement in African Leadership Prize

President Ellen Johnson

After two years of winner-drought, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has announced its 2017 Prize for Achievement in African Leadership is to be awarded to Former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

A statement released in London on Monday and copied to ghanabusinessnews.com said the coveted prize is being awarded the world’s first elected black female President and Africa’s first elected female Head of State for presiding over the only country among the continent’s 54 to improve in every category and sub-category of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance.

“This led Liberia to move up ten places in the Index’s overall ranking during this period.”, the statement explained.

The 2017 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership has been awarded to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who served two terms as President of Liberia from 2006 to 2017, and according to the independent Prize Committee, becomes the fifth recipient of the Ibrahim Prize, which recognises and celebrates excellence in African leadership.

The Prize aims to distinguish leaders who, during their time in office, have developed their countries, strengthened democracy and human rights for the shared benefit of their people, and advanced sustainable development.

Announcing the decision, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, Chair of the Prize Committee, said “Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focussed on building a nation and its democratic institutions. Throughout her two terms in office, she worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of Liberia. Such a journey cannot be without some shortcomings and, today, Liberia continues to face many challenges. Nevertheless, during her twelve years in office, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf laid the foundations on which Liberia can now build.”

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became President of Liberia on January 16, 2006, after winning the 2005 national elections. She served her first term 2006-11 and was then successfully re-elected for a second term, serving in office 2012-17.

The Award Founder and Sudanese Billionaire, Mo Ibrahim has welcomed the announcement describing Mrs Sirleaf as an inspiration to women in Africa and beyond.

Ibrahim recalled that “In very difficult circumstances, she helped guide her nation towards a peaceful and democratic future, paving the way for her successor to follow. I am proud to see the first woman Ibrahim Laureate, and I hope Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will continue to inspire women in Africa and beyond.”

The last time a former African leader won the Prize was in 2014 when Ex-Namibian Head of State, Hifikepunye Pohamba was decorated with the honour.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf therefore joins Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia (2014), Pedro Pires of Cabo Verde (2011), Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008) and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique (2007) as an Ibrahim Prize Laureate.  Nelson Mandela was made the inaugural Honorary Laureate in 2007.

The Prize is a $5 million award paid over ten years and $200,000 annually for life thereafter. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation will consider granting a further $200,000 per year for ten years towards public interest activities and good causes espoused by the Ibrahim Laureate.

The candidates for the Ibrahim Prize are all former African executive heads of state or government who have left office during the last three calendar years, having been democratically elected and served their constitutionally mandated term.

The Mo Ibrahim Prize is the largest annually awarded prize in the world, consisting of $5 million over ten years and $200,000 per year for life thereafter. It is administered by an independent prize committee chaired by former Prime Minister of Tanzania and former Secretary-General of the OAU, Salim Ahmed Salim  and includes former President of Finland and Nobel Laureate, Martti Ahtisaari;     Aïcha Bah Diallo, President, Network for Education for All in Africa; Former Minister of Education in Guinea; Former Chair of UNESCO Advisory Committee for Education in Africa;  Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General Emeritus, International Atomic Energy Agency; Nobel Laureate and Mr Horst Köhler, UN Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara; former President of Germany.

The rest are Graça Machel, Former Minister of Education in Mozambique; Festus Mogae, Former President of Botswana; 2008 Ibrahim Prize Laureate; and Mary Robinson, Former UN Special Envoy on the Great Lakes Region of Africa; Former UN Envoy on Climate Change and Former UN Special Envoy on El Nino and Climate; Former President of Ireland.

The West African nation of Liberia erupted into civil war from 1989 to 1999 leading to the death of over 250,000 people and destruction of properties including state infrastructure.

The intervention of the regional economic grouping, ECOWAS with its military wing, ECOMOG restored transitional power leading to a democratically accepted poll five years later.

Mrs Sirleaf handed over to incumbent President George Weah after an election late last year.

By Emmanuel J.K Arthur

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