Outgoing President Ian Khama has not been lucky to add a whopping $5million (P 48 314 500.00) to the money he is already collecting during his farewell tour around the country. This is after former Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was announced the winner of the coveted Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership on Sunday.
Khama, who is expected to step down as president end of March, was contesting for the mouth-watering prize with Liberia’s Johnson-Sirleaf who left office last month, handing over to George Weah, the former Chelsea and Milan footballer –cum politician.
Had he won, Khama would have been the second president from Botswana to win the prize after former president Festus Mogae scooped it in 2008 when he stepped down from the presidency.
Johnson-Sirleaf is the fifth and only female leader in the continent to have been the recipient of the prize since its inception in 2006. The award celebrates African leaders who governed well, raised living standards of their people and then left office without bloodshed. The candidate also has to have served only the constitutionally mandated term and demonstrated exceptional leadership. President Mogae was awarded the Ibrahim Prize for his role in maintaining and consolidating Botswana’s stability and prosperity in the face of an HIV/Aids pandemic.
The Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership is the brainchild of British-Sudanese telecommunications billionaire Mo Ibrahim. However, this prize is not always awarded, as on six occasions (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016), the adjudicating committee did not find a leader who met the criteria for the prize and as such none was considered worthy of it. The $5million prize is spread over 10 years and is followed by $200,000 a year for the rest of the recipient’s life. Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano was the inaugural winner in 2007. Other leaders awarded the prize are presidents Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008), Pedro Pires of Cape Verde (2011) and Hikifepunye Pohamba of Namibia (2014).
In a statement released after the announcement of Johnson-Sirleaf as the winner, head of the prize committee Salim Ahmed Salim said: “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.’’ Salim’s committee, made up of among others former president Mogae and Graca Machel, lauded Johnson-Sirleaf’s achievements for having “inspired millions of women and her success is a testament to the power of exceptional leadership.”
The Foundation Chairman Mo Ibrahim praised Johnson-Sirleaf for guiding Liberia through a difficult period and ensuring peace and democracy. “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,” he added, according to reports on the Foundation’s website.
Local political analyst Anthony Ndulamo Morima had already predicted Johnson-Sirleaf would beat Khama to the prize. Writing a week ago in his weekly column (The Eagle Eye) in the Weekend Post, Morima compared the leadership of Khama and Johnson-Sirfleaf and concluded: ‘‘In my view, considering the fact that under Khama’s leadership Botswana has suffered increasing deterioration while under Johnson Sirleaf’s leadership Liberia, despite the challenges it is facing, experienced improvement, albeit slow, Johnson Sirleaf is better placed to win the prize than Khama.’’