MONROVIA, Montserrado – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia, has been awarded the 2017 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.
The announcement of Sirleaf’s award was made early Monday morning on the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s official website.
Sirleaf is the fifth winner of the US$5 million prize since Mozambique’s former President Joaquim Chissano was first awarded the prize in 2007. The prize is paid over ten years and the recipient afterward receives US$200,000 annually for life.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s Prize Committee praised the former president for leading the country as it recovered from the civil war, noting that “she worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of Liberia.”
Sirleaf was also praised for her efforts in reconciliation and nation-building.
Salim Ahmed Salim, the former secretary general of the Organization for African Unity, now the African Union, and committee chairman, said Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focused on building a nation and its democratic institutions.
“Such a journey cannot be without some shortcomings, and today Liberia continues to face many challenges,” he said. “Nevertheless, during her twelve years in office, the former Liberian president laid the foundations on which the country can now build.”
According to the committee, Sirleaf’s achievements have inspired millions of women, and her success is a testament to the power of exceptional leadership.
The committee chairman praised 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 Sirleaf will continue to inspire women in Africa and beyond,” Salim said.
Sirleaf was first elected as Africa’s first female head of state in 2005 after decades of civil war.
The foundation uses five criteria to select a winner. The winner has to be a former African head of state or government, has to have been democratically elected, and should have left office within the last three calendar years before the award.
The candidate also has to have served only the constitutionally mandated term and demonstrated exceptional leadership.
The Mo Ibrahim Prize was launched in 2006, but it was not awarded in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016, as the committee stated that it did not find a leader who met all the criteria for the prize.
In 2008, Festus Mogae of Botswana won the prize. Pedro Pires of Cape Verde won in 2011, and Hifikipunye Pohamba of Namibia took the award in 2014.
Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, was given an honorary award in 2007.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah