World leaders last evening showered praises on former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano as he received the first ever Ibrahim Prize worth $5 million during a ceremony held in the Egyptian city of Alexandria.
It has two entitlements – $5 million over 10 years and $200,000 annually for life.
The prize, courtesy of Egyptian-born billionaire Ibrahim Mo, also includes an annual $200,000 for 10 years towards the winner’s public interest activities and good causes.
Chissano stepped down in 2005 even though he had constitutional rights to run for another term. Since then he has been involved in peace efforts on the continent, and is currently a UN envoy in the ongoing negotiations between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
“I congratulate the recipient of the first award, President Chissano; we remember him for his wise and insightful leadership in many situations that could have exploded if it was not for that kind of leadership,” former South African President, Nelson Mandela said.
According to a statement from Ibrahim Mo Foundation, Mandela said that it was his wish that this award encourage the new breed of African leaders to follow into Chissano’s example.
“He found himself heading a country in the middle of a savage civil war. Through his own leadership and personal qualities, he left Mozambique as one of Africa’s success stories,” the elderly former head of state said in a recorded message to the ceremony.
Also in a recorded message, former US President Bill Clinton said: ‘The Prize is a celebration of the exceptional leadership we see in Africa that is too often ignored. President Chissano is an example of that kind of leadership.”
The prize was handed to the former Mozambican leader by Koffi Annan, the immediate former UN Secretary General, who also chairs the prize awarding committee.
“We must have the courage, the vision, the determination to work together to unlock the extraordinary potential of the African people. We should have confidence too. For Africa is changing,” Annan said after awarding Chissano.
Annan, a Ghanaian, added: “We should have confidence too….for Africa is changing, our continent is moving in the right direction and good leadership was crucial to this progress.”
In his acceptance speech, Chissano said that he was delighted to be the first recipient of the prestigious prize. “The Foundation’s aim to recognise and celebrate African leadership is a noble one and I look forward to using the Prize to do all I can to promote good governance in a continent that is changing rapidly for the better,” Chissano said.
The Prize Committee praised Chissano’s achievements in bringing peace, reconciliation, stable democracy and economic progress to his country.
And the benefactor, Dr Ibrahim Mo, said that nothing in Africa is more important than good governance, noting that there is no more appropriate winner of the inaugural prize than a man who led his people away from war, and towards peace, prosperity and democracy.
Chissano served as Head of State of Mozambique from November 1986 to February 2005.