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Former Namibian President Pohamba Accepts Leadership Prize

FILE - Namibia's Hifikepunye Pohamba addresses the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Sept. 25, 2012.

Former Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba has accepted a multimillion-dollar African leadership award from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

"This honor is not for me alone," Pohamba said Friday at a ceremony in Accra, Ghana. "I accept it with a sense of great humility, on behalf of the Namibian people, who entrusted me, through democratic processes, to lead our country as president for two consecutive terms."

The award is given to an African leader who was elected democratically, excels in office and then leaves office when his or her term is completed.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation announced last March that Pohamba would receive the leadership prize, which has not been awarded since 2011. The group said it did not give out the award for several years because it could find no suitable candidates.

Mo Ibrahim, the British-Sudanese businessman who created the foundation, said, "We need to change the narrative about African leadership. The world knows everything about our bad leaders, but nothing about our heroes."

Salim Ahmed Salim, chairman of the prize committee, said in presenting the award to Pohamba that the former Namibian leader had brought "national cohesion" at a "key stage" in his country's consolidation of democracy.

The foundation will pay Pohamba $5 million over the course of 10 years, then give him an additional $200,000 each year after that.

Term limits prevented Pohamba from running for office last year. Prime Minister Hage Geingob of the president's South West People's Organization won the vote and took over the presidency this year.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation is also responsible for the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, which ranks countries based on factors including economic opportunity and human rights. The prize committee acknowledged Namibia, which ranks high on the index, still faces challenges, including widening income inequality.

Namibia benefits from major diamond and uranium reserves, but the poverty rate is high. Critics have accused the government of engaging in corruption and being slow in carrying out land reform.

Past winners of the Ibrahim prize include former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano in 2007, former Botswanan President Festus Mogae in 2008 and former Cape Verdean President Pedro Pires in 2011.