Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Africa’s first elected female head of state, has won a $5 million Mo Ibrahim award, designed to improve the quality of African political leadership.
Johnson Sirleaf, who handed over leadership of the West African state last month to ex-international soccer star George Weah, is only the fifth person to win the 10-year-old award.
Since its inception in 2007, the prize founded by Sudanese telecommunications tycoon Mo Ibrahim has not been awarded on six occasions because there was no leader considered worthy of it.
During her twelve years in office, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf laid the foundations on which Liberia can now build.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation praised Johnson Sirleaf for her “exceptional and transformative leadership” in helping steer Liberia’s recovery from many years of civil war.
“During her twelve years in office, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf laid the foundations on which Liberia can now build,” the Foundation said.
On hearing the outcome of the Prize Committee’s deliberations, Mo Ibrahim said: “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 prize committee admitted that while Sirleaf was accused of tolerating corruption, she had shown exceptional leadership in difficult circumstances.
It added that Liberia was the only country out of 54 to improve in every category and sub-category of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance.
The Ibrahim 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.
Candidates for the award have to be democratically elected African heads of state or government who have left office during the previous three years at the end of their mandated terms.
The prize is $5 million paid out over ten years, with another $200,000 annually throughout the winner’s lifetime.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wins 2017 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. Former President of #Liberia praised for her extraordinary efforts to lead country’s recovery following civil war. Read the full release: https://t.co/knJ7uMVWlh #MIFPrize #leadership #Africa pic.twitter.com/77Kfh2JKkD— Mo Ibrahim Fdn (@Mo_IbrahimFdn) February 12, 2018
Past winners of the prize include Mozambique’s former President Joaquim Chissano, Botswana’s former President Festus Mogae, Cape Verde’s former President Pedro Verona Pires and Namibia’s former President Hifikipunye Pohamba.
Founded by freed American slaves, Liberia is Africa’s oldest modern republic. But it has been plagued by years of unrest and bloodshed, including two civil wars notorious for their brutality and use of child soldiers.