The foundation created by Sudanese-born British businessman Mo Ibrahim
is awarding its annual prize for good governance in Africa to
Botswana's former president Festus Mogae. The award, given to the
former president in Egypt Saturday, is intended to honor exemplary former
African rulers and set an example for current leaders to follow, as
Edward Yeranian reports for VOA from Cairo.
several past and present world leaders, and members of the Mo Ibrahim
Foundation gathered in Alexandria, Egypt Saturday to honor Botswana's
former president Festus Mogae with the second annual Mo Ibrahim Award,
given to the continent's best governing and most outstanding former
The prize, worth $5 million dispensed over a ten year
period, with an additional $200,000 annual stipend after that, was
established by Sudanese-born, British telecommunications magnate Mo
Ibrahim in 2007. Last year's prize went to former Mozambique president
Former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, who
presided over the selection of Mr. Mogae, spoke about the virtues of
the former Botswanan leader at a ceremony in London announcing the
prize-winner several weeks ago.
"I'm delighted to announce that
the winner is Festus Gutambanje Mogae," he said. "When elected in
1998, President Festus Mogae took over a country which was already one
of the continent's success stories. Its democracy was strong, stable
and rooted in the rule of law."
"Botswana was widely regarded
as one of the more effective countries in the world in combating
corruption. President Mogae's outstanding leadership has insured
Botswana's continuous stability and prosperity in the face of HIV/AIDS
pandemic, which threatened the future of his country and people. This
greatly impressed the committee," he added.
Mr. Mogae has been a
trailblazer in the fight against the deadly HIV virus in his native
Botswana, as well as a champion of the environment and protecting the
continent's natural resources. He spoke of his crusade to defend the
environment at an International Conservation Foundation gathering in
"The future of our planet is dependent on how well we care
for the environment and manage our natural resources," said President
Mogae. "I will highlight our effort and the challenges we are faced
with in the management of the environment and protection of our natural
resources in our little Botswana. I should add that the support of the
U.S. government, the international community, and the private sector
will greatly enhance our efforts."
Mo Ibrahim, the founder of
the African cell-phone giant Celtel, is contributing up to $5 million
of his own money to set up the foundation which is making the annual
African good-governance award. Ibrahim's foundation is also publishing
an index of good governance in Africa each year, which includes such
benchmarks as security, economic opportunities, transparency,
democracy, human rights, education, and health.
al-Jazeera TV's David Frost, during an interview last year, that the
cornerstone of his foundation was "not the annual prize… but the
index... which has 70 parameters… and gives a score card for each
country in Africa."
This year's index was presented at a
ceremony in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in October, during
which Ibrahim spoke of the need for good governance.
we're all aware of the importance of good leadership in
Africa... actually, everywhere, but particularly in Africa," said Ibrahim. "A lot really is at stake there. We witness a new generation
of African leadership coming through to take us forward."
"In Addis Ababa,
we launched a index for this year: the index for African governance,
and we're very pleased to notice that two-thirds of the African
countries managed to improve the standard of governance over the year,
compared with the previous year. These are good news. Unfortunately,
good news are masked by the trouble spots in two or three places in
Africa. But Africa has 53 countries and there's a lot of good news
happening in Africa. So, today, we try and separate and bring the good
news forward," he continued.
Christiaan Poortman, of Berlin-based Transparency
International, which puts out its own index of good governance and
corruption across the globe, tells the VOA in a phone interview why he
thinks it is important to honor Africa's best leaders.
obviously a global issue, but particularly in the African context it's
useful to identify people who might be role models in terms of their
behavior in bringing transparency and accountability to governance and
governments," said Poortman.
"Well, Mr. Mogae is a man with a very
great reputation for being a very responsible, transparent and
accountable leader; as a matter of fact, Botswana has a long history,
as you may know, of a very particular type of governance, which
generally is perceived to be very much in line with what one would like
to see an accountable government look like. I think Mr. Mogae has
embodied that and I think he is indeed a role model that one would like
to see followed," he added.
Not everyone, however, is entirely pleased
about the Mo Ibrahim Prize, or of its winner, despite an overwhelmingly
positive reception for both former president Mogae and the Ibrahim
Prize from the media.
A London-based Africa analyst, Cameron
Duodu, told al-Jazeera TV's Inside Edition that he questioned the
motivation of giving a prize to an African leader who was "merely doing
his job," albeit "doing it well."
Another group, calling itself
"Survival International," is criticizing the award and Mr. Mogae for
allegedly evicting members of Botswana's Bushman Tribe from their