by Nizar K Visram
MARCH this year African people, and the world at large, were informed that the outgoing president of Namibia, Hifikepunye Pohamba, 79, is the winner of the Mo Ibrahim award for 2014. It comes with a lump sum of US$5 million and after ten years a lifelong ‘allowance’ of US$200,000 per year.
The award was founded by Mohammed “Mo” Ibrahim, a British billionaire of Sudanese origin, in order to encourage African leaders to hand over power peacefully and constitutionally. It is given to a former African executive head of state or government who ‘steps down willingly’ after two terms and for their ‘exemplary’ leadership in fighting poverty and upholding national integrity. It is the biggest award of its kind in the world, larger than the Nobel Peace Prize, for example, that is worth around US$1.5 million.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation previously awarded the prize to the presidents of Cape Verde (Pedro Pires in 2011) and Botswana (Festus Mogae in 2008). Former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano was the first laureate of the prize in 2007. Former South African President Nelson Mandela was also made the inaugural honorary winner in 2007.
Pohamba is a founder of the South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) liberation movement that successfully fought the South African apartheid regime’s occupation of Namibia. He was first elected in 2004 and again in 2009 and stepped down at the end of March after his successor, prime minister Hage Geingob, won the November 2014 elections.
Chairman of the award committee, former Organisation of African Unity (OAU) secretary general Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, described Pohamba as someone who “bettered the lives of his people.”
At the press conference in Nairobi, Kenya, where the winner was announced, the prize committee said Pohamba is rewarded for the “important socio-economic gains made in his country, for assuring national cohesion and reconciliation, and for stepping down after two terms.”
Dr Salim described Pohamba’s leadership as ‘exemplary’ and said he was someone who respected the rule of law, especially when it came to term limits.
Yet Namibia is a young nation facing many challenges, including Read the rest of this entry »