Sudanese Businessman Mo Ibrahim has announced he will not be awarding a multi-million-dollar award for good governance in Africa this year. Ibrahim told reporters he meant no disrespect to those former leaders who were considered for the award.
Former Botswana president Ketumile Masire announced the results for the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership at a news conference in London.
"This year the prize committee has considered some credible candidates," he said. "However after in-depth review, the prize committee could not select a winner."
The award is intended for a former African leader who governed honestly and democratically within their countries constitution and left power within the last three years.
"I made clear at the beginning, when we started our foundation, that there may be years where no winner is chosen, and this is such a year," said billionaire Sudanese businessman Mo Ibrahim, who heads the foundation that awards the prize.
He said the decision should not be seen as a sign of disrespect and described some of the candidates as personal friends.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki and ex-Ghanaian President John Kufuor were thought to be front runners for the award.
The prize committee is a group of eminent former world leaders and several Nobel prizewinners, including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The committee makes its decision independently of the Mo Ibrahim foundation and no details were given about how or why they decided not to award the prize this year.
Former Ireland President Mary Robinson said even if the prize were intended for a non-African leader, its possible no recipient would have been chosen.
"If we did have a similar prize for European leaders or leaders in other regions, we would not necessarily have so many [who] would be getting a big prize," she said.
On a British media website, people from around the world have been writing in to give their opinion on the decision not to award the prize this year. Many have expressed dismay.
One correspondent from Botswana says Africa needs to search for its own form of democracy. Another says that Ibrahim's decision not to give the prize highlights the fact that African democracies are failing.
Dianne Abbot, a British Parliament member, says perhaps the boundaries of the award should be changed in order to highlight the positive news in Africa.
"Maybe they should have a broader criteria going forward, because there are so many good things and so many good leaders in Africa that don't necessarily fit the tight specification of this prize," said Abbot.
She says the future is bright for many African leaders, especially for a new generation of female politicians.
"They are really looking at a past generation. I think there is a rising generation of African leadership, particularly the women, that is doing very well and maybe ought to be acknowledged," added Abbot.
The two past winners of Mo Ibrahim Prize are former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano and Botswana's ex-president Festus Gontebanye Mogae.
Winners receive $5-million over 10 years and $200,000 annually for the rest of their lives.