The Mo Ibrahim Foundation based in London was launched in 2006 with the goal of encouraging discussions about good governance in Africa, providing standards by which citizens can hold governments accountable, and recognizing achievement in African leadership. This recognition of exemplary leadership is instituted through the Foundation’s coveted Mo Ibrahim Prize, a lucrative annual award given to the overall best ex-African leader.
The points collation of this prize is calculated through a system known as the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. This index documents the performance of the 48 sub-Saharan African countries, laying emphasis on governmental elements such as security, corruption levels, and regard for human rights in those countries. Many distinguished professors and academicians poured efforts into developing the index, leading many to regard it as free and fair.
In 2007, Joaquim Chissano, a former President of Mozambique, took home the prize for his work in leading Mozambique from conflict to peace and stability. The prize money was a 5 million initial payment given over ten years, plus an additional $200,000 for each year of life. The following year, Botswana’s Festus Mogae took home the prize.
Many international and continental analysts believe that the enormity of the prize money has caused many African leaders to start putting their houses in order. According to these African political pundits, African Presidents now see the prize as a good way to retire without hauling along a sizable chunk of their countries resources. So it came as no surprise that there was a lot of media interest in the 2009 Mo Ibrahim Prize. The three finalists were the immediate former Presidents of South Africa, Ghana and Nigeria: Thabo Mbeki, John Kufuor, and Olusegun Obasanjo.
The three Presidents paint different historical portraits. Thabo Mbeki was forced out of office last year and Olesegun Obasanajo presided over an election largely believed to have been fraught with irregularities. The relatively less controversial of the three was Ghana’s John Kufuor, who saw over another peaceful handing of power to an opposition party in elections in Ghana last year. But John Kufuor was not without blame. He came under massive fire from Ghanaians in 2007 for creating and awarding to himself the highest national award in Ghana, causing his critics to paint him as an accolade-loving leader.
When the results of the prize were announced, all three ex-leaders were disappointed. The prize committee felt none of the three men were outstanding enough to take home booty. Disappointment? Not everyone thinks so. Some people believe the results of the prize were fair because it sets a good example of mediocrity not being rewarded. These individuals believe that the “ghost” results should rather spur current African leaders to go the full mile in ensuring that peace, freedom and democracy prevail in their countries. Only then can they be assured a golden parachute when they peacefully bow out of office.