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African leaders do not deserve The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership

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The above-named prize, which is valued at US$ 5million initial payment plus $200,000 a year for life, was brought into the continent by the Sudan-born Mo Ibrahim in 2007 to celebrate excellence by rewarding former African presidents who would have been democratically elected, made a meaningful impact in the lives of their citizens and left office at the end of their term. The first recipient is former Mozambique President Chissano in 2007 followed by our very own Rre Festus Mogae the following year. At the heart of this prize is that the principle of governance should have been the absolute imperative during their terms of office. Is this the case? I am afraid it is not given the history of the continent.
What is governance? But before we define governance, let’s use this simple analogy: just imagine for a second what would happen if we did not have air controllers at airports-landing and taking off of aeroplanes would be disastrous. Air controllers are governance where all steps are put in place to ensure safe landing and taking off. The disastrous landing and taking off is the crisis that follows when there are no air controllers. Africa is therefore this disaster owing to lack of governance. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation defines governance as “the provision of the political, social and economic good that a citizen has the right to expect from his or her state and that a state has the responsibility to deliver to its citizens.” Another definition from elsewhere is that “the need for governance exists anytime a group of people come together to accomplish an end, and it rests on three dimensions: authority, decision making and accountability.”
Africa is, as Boyz II Men would sing, on “bended knees” where the principles of the two definitions are painfully and unbelievingly ignored by those who have received the prize and those who may harbour a desire to do so. Consequently, ordinary folks like me and you pay a heavy price. Just think of this: if we were to look at goods and services we would receive had governance been in place relative to the money earmarked for such, our lives could be far much better than it is. The state and magnitude of poverty, disease, illiteracy, run away corruption, armed conflict, selective rule of law, gross and systematic violation of human rights are some of the ills which have and continue to befall us. These are found in abundance in all countries on the continent. I acknowledge that Rre Mogae played a critical role in addressing the HIV/AIDS problem through the office he held and we are grateful for that. But it appears he didn’t, with respect, use the same office to ensure that the North South Carrier project was properly managed given its current multiple problems.
Some of these leaders cannot even remember let alone explain how they got their wealth. Ali Bongo Ondimba, President and son of former President of Gabon family assets as of August 2015 had 39 properties in Paris and French Riviera as well as nine luxury cars including Ferraris and Mercedes worth a total of $1.6. He is said to have pocketed 25% of Gabon’s GDP and he is worth $1 billion. To him Mo Ibrahim’s prize is peanuts and why would he be interested in it? The would-be recipients of the prize have resolved at the AU that they are not subject to any legal process while in office, yet Mo Ibrahim does not seem to see this as a gross violation of governance. In the ten years of its existence, only five former Presidents have received the prize-Mozambique’s Chissano-2007, Botswana’s Mogae-2008, (S. Africa’s Mandela-honorary 2007) Cape Verde’s Pires-2011 and lastly Namibia’s Pohamba-2014. This tells us that in the other five years, nobody made the cut presumably because there is just none left not that there was ever any.
The value of The Ibrahim Prize is said to exceed that of the Nobel Peace Prize (US$1.4) and for Mo Ibrahim to be rewarding those who fail the governance test is tantamount to endorsing the very issues he is trying to fight against. I would suggest that he stops rewarding these leaders and donate this prize to foundations which will for example finance intelligent students from poor background. Nothing will ever motivate our leaders to practise governance because they are just not interested-their focus and priorities are elsewhere. They say you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. African leaders are so insensitive to the plight of their own fellow citizens and do not deserve The Mo Ibrahim prize let alone any other prize in the world.  Apart from the natural disasters, the sorry state Africa finds herself in is precisely because governance is not an option to African leaders. Why should they be rewarded for failing the continent?
Adam Phetlhe

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