ALEXANDRIA - Former Mozambiquan president Joachim Alberto Chissano was awarded the inaugural Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership at a grand ceremony held at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt.
In his speech while handing Chissano the prize, Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, and now Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Prize Committee, said that good leadership is vital if we are to overcome the challenges that face our world.
“Our continent has immense problems but also extraordinary potential. Without honest and sound leadership, the danger is this potential will remain unfilled,” he said.
The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership that Chissano won is the largest individual award in the world, and it comprises $5 million for over ten years and $200,000 annually for life thereafter, and a further $200,000 a year for ten years towards the winner’s public activities.
It was set up by Dr Mo Ibrahim, the board chairman of The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, to provide African leaders with the platform and means to continue to contribute to public life after leaving their high offices.
Speaking at the function, Mo Ibrahim stressed that the prize was to recognize good leadership in Africa and to thank and encourage it.
“Look at Rwanda and its dynamics. It moved up 18 places in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance which ranks sub-Sahara African countries’ governance performance. There is a lot of good that should be recognized from Africa and the world should not only look at the bad boys,” Mo said.
He gave another example of Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, whose contribution to positive governance is recognized the world over as to have prompted UK premier Gordon Brown’s comment that Mandela was the greatest leader of the 20th Century.
The first Ibrahim Laureate, Joachim Chissano, thanked the Mo Ibrahim Foundation for initiating the good governance prize and for recognizing his efforts to unite and develop Mozambique.
“This prize will help me to further my work in fostering peace and unity among our African people,” he said.
The ceremony attracted hundreds of people from all over the world who converged on the Mediterranean city of Alexandria to witness history.
Amongst the many notables were Maarti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland and former United Nations Special Representative for Namibia; Aicha Bah Diallo, Special Advisor to the Director General of Unesco for Africa and Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela, former Nigerian minister of Finance and also of Foreign Affairs
Others were Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; and Salim Ahmed Salim, former Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
At the same function, Nelson Mandela was awarded an Honorary Laureate in recognition of his positive leadership style that has become an inspiration to leaders throughout the world and is synonymous with democracy and best governance practice.
“We are proud to be the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s Honorary Laureate. The generous grant that accompanies this award will be shared by the three charities established in our name – the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation, to make sure that we continue traveling in the direction that Mo and his Foundation seek to encourage,” said Mandela in a televised acceptance speech broadcast to the attentive audience in the Bibliotheca.
Former United States president Bill Clinton also thanked Mo Ibrahim for his initiative in supporting good leadership in Africa and the world in general. In a televised speech, Clinton said he recognizes that Africa faces many challenges, but it is good to applaud and uphold the good that shows, as an encouragement to others to follow suit.
After the award ceremony, guests were treated to live performances by celebrated African musicians Youssou N’Dour, Angelique Kidjo, Salif Keita and Mohamed Mounir, accompanied by the Cairo Ochestra directed by Fathy Salama.
In a related development, UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Anna Tibaijuka, also congratulated Joachim Chissano on being awarded the prestigious Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.
“This is a victory not only for Chissano but also for the people of Mozambique who have worked so hard to rally behind a good leader to promote development, peace and stability in their country after a long and difficult period,” Tibaijuka said on behalf of her agency.
Chissano features high in UN-HABITAT’s books because, like the Mo Ibrahim prize, he was the first African leader to be awarded the UN-HABITAT’s prestigious Habitat Scroll of Honour in 2004. In it he was cited for “his tireless efforts to uplift the lot of the poorest of the poor in Africa.”
Later in 2006 Chissano was appointed the agency’s Youth Ambassador to continue championing the concerns of the youth on the international scene.