By Tom Odula
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NAIROBI, Kenya _ Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba has won the 2014 Ibrahim Prize for African leadership, the first African leader deemed worthy of the honour since 2011.
While Africa’s dictators and long-serving rulers garner much attention and news coverage, the $5 million prize seeks to give public recognition and a monetary reward to leaders who rule well on the continent.
The prize, announced Monday in Nairobi, is for democratically elected African leaders who excel in governance and who step down from office at the end of their terms. Pohamba is still serving as Namibia’s leader until the newly elected president, Hage Geingob, is inaugurated on March 21.
“During the decade of Hifikepunye Pohamba’s presidency, Namibia’s reputation has been cemented as a well-governed, stable and inclusive democracy with strong media freedom and respect for human rights,” said prize committee chairman Salim Ahmed Salim.
The annual prize was first given in 2007 but for four years _ 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013 _ no African leader was found to meet the prize requirements.
Previous prize winners are Presidents Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique in 2007, Festus Mogae of Botswana in 2008 and Pedro Pires of Cape Verde in 2011. Nelson Mandela was named the inaugural honorary laureate in 2007.
The committee will not change the criteria used to select the prize winners in order to present the award every year, said Mohamed ElBaradei, former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nobel laureate, who is a prize committee member.
The founder of the prize, Mo Ibrahim, a British mobile phone magnate born in Sudan, on Monday urged Africans to look for heroes among their leader and not just focus on the bad leaders.
Many African leaders lead humble lives, said Graca Machel, the widow of Nelson Mandela, who is chancellor of the University of Cape Town and former Minister of Education in Mozambique.