And the African leadership prize goes to ... no one

The Associated PressOctober 20, 2009 

— In a snub to recent ex-presidents and heads of state in Africa, organizers of a multimillion-dollar annual prize for good governance on the continent said Monday they had decided not to give out the award this year.

The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership is awarded only to democratically elected heads of state who have left office in the past three years. That requirement limits the pool of contenders and eliminates the continent's strongmen leaders.

The committee considered "some credible candidates" but could not select a winner, said former Botswana President Ketumile Masire, a board member of the group that awards the prize.

Created in 2007 by Sudan-born billionaire Mo Ibrahim, the prize awards $5 million over 10 years and $200,000 annually for life thereafter to encourage leadership that improves the prospects of Africans.

Ibrahim was asked at a news conference Monday about politicians who meet the award criteria but were not chosen, including former South African President Thabo Mbeki, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-Ghanaian President John Kufuor.

Ibrahim, the founder of the African telecommunications company Celtel International, said the foundation had "full respect" for those leaders.

Masire said the foundation "noted the progress made with governance in some African countries, while noting with concern recent setbacks in other countries."

The move surprised some experts, who say the award should be used as an encouragement to good governance.

"The way I see it is, it is like the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Obama," said Siphamandla Zondi, head of the Africa program at the Institute for Global Dialogue in South Africa. "It is not necessarily meant to make a definitive statement about accomplishments. It should be used to encourage positive tendencies."

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