Botswana's Mogae wins African leadership prize

Botswana’s former president Festus Mogae won the $5-million Mo Ibrahim Prize for African leadership on Monday for ensuring “stability and prosperity” in his country.

The winner of the world’s largest individual award was announced by former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan at London’s City Hall.

The prize is awarded to a democratically elected former head of state or government from a sub-Saharan African country who served his constitutional term and left office in the past three years.

Mogae handed over power earlier this year in a smooth transition after nearly a decade in power.

“President Mogae’s outstanding leadership has ensured Botswana’s continued stability and prosperity in the face of an HIV/Aids pandemic which threatened the future of his country and people,” Annan said.

Botswana is a rare political and economic success story on the world’s poorest and most unstable continent. The country of nearly two million is the world’s biggest diamond producer.

“Botswana demonstrates how a country with natural resources can promote sustainable development with good governance, in a continent where too often mineral wealth has become a curse,” Annan added.

The winner is chosen by a prize committee of six, chaired by Annan and including fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureates Martti Ahtisaari, a former president of Finland, and Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The prize was awarded for the first time last year when it went to Mozambique’s former president Joaquim Chissano, who stood aside after leading his country to peace and democracy after years of civil war.

Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese-born telecommunications entrepreneur, established the prize as a way of encouraging good governance in a continent blighted by corruption and a frequently loose adherence to democratic principles.

Annan has said he expects the award to make African leaders more aware of their records on human rights and democracy.

Winners will receive $5-million over 10 years and then $200 000 a year for life, with another possible $200 000 annually for “good causes” they espouse.

In contrast, the Nobel Peace Prize, which Annan won jointly with the United Nations in 2001, pays $1,4-million.—Reuters


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