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Chissano Awarded African Leadership Prize

Former Mozambique President Joachim Chissano is the first recipient of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African leadership. Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan made the announcement in London. Tendai Maphosa has this report from there for VOA.

Joachim Chissano becomes the first former African leader to be awarded the $5 million Mo Ibrahim Foundation's Prize for Achievement in African leadership. The prize recognizes an African leader who was freely elected, and stepped down at the end of his or her constitutional term over the past three years.

Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan chaired the selection committee. He praised Mr. Chissano, citing economic progress, infrastructure development and the tackling of HIV/AIDS during his presidency.

But Mr. Annan said it was for his role in leading Mozambique from conflict to democracy that Mr. Chissano made his most outstanding contribution.

"It is a measure of the change that has taken place, that national and regional elections have been contested in a generally peaceful manner by both sides in the bitter civil war," he said. "This remarkable reconciliation between opponents provides a shining example to the rest of the world, and it is testament to both his strength of character and his leadership. "

Mr. Chissano fought in his country's war of independence against the Portuguese. At independence in 1975, he became foreign minister. He took over his country's leadership when President Samora Machel died in a plane crash in 1986.

Mr. Chissano is credited with negotiating an end to the country's 16-year civil war in 1992. The opposition participated in democratic elections two years later.

The award, the largest philanthropic prize in the world, is the brainchild of Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese-born mobile-phone entrepreneur, who now lives in London. He hopes it will encourage better governance in Africa.

Mr. Chissano will receive $5 million over 10 years, and $200,000 annually thereafter. An additional $200,000 a year will be given to the winner's public interest activities and good causes.

Critics of the prize argue that leaders should not be rewarded for doing what they are chosen to do anyway. Selection committee member Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala disagrees.

"Africa has had quite a bad rap internationally, in terms of being seen as a continent that does not have good enough leaders," said Okonjo-Iweala. "So, this is one way to show the outside world that we do indeed have men and women, who can step up to the plate and exhibit the kind of leadership that makes all of us proud."

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation also published its first Index of African Governance last month. The index ranks 48 sub-Saharan countries against an index of governance indicators. Mauritius topped that list while Somalia was last.