Page last updated at 13:57 GMT, Monday, 19 October 2009 14:57 UK

African leadership prize withheld

Mo Ibrahim: "There may be years where no winner is chosen, and this is such a year"

A prize of $5m (£3m) for African ex-leaders who have shown good governance is not being awarded this year, Sudanese magnate Mo Ibrahim has said.

He gave no reason for the decision and said he had always intended that there would be years when no prize was given.

Now in its third year, the prize is given to a democratically elected leader from sub-Saharan Africa who has served their term and then left office.

South Africa's Thabo Mbeki and Ghana's John Kufuor had been the favourites.

'No disrespect'

The winners receive $5m over 10 years, and then $200,000 a year for life after that - the most valuable individual annual award in the world.

Sudan-born mobile phone entrepreneur
Moved to UK in 1974 to study
By 1983, director of BT Cellnet
Founded Mobile Systems International, which he sold to Marconi in 2000
Then set up Celtel, used by 25m Africans
2007: Started African leadership prize
2008: Named UK's most influential black person

Mr Ibrahim said people could draw their own conclusions about why no prize was awarded this year.

But he said there was "no issue of disrespect" meant towards eligible candidates.

"The prize committee welcomed the progress made on governance in some African countries while noting with concern recent setbacks in other countries," said a statement from the panel which made the decision.

"This year the prize committee has considered some credible candidates. However, after in-depth review, the prize committee could not select a winner."

Former president of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, one of the panel-members, said that if there had been a similar award for former European leaders this year, it might have been equally difficult to select a worthy winner.

BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says Mr Ibrahim established the prize because well-run African democracies are not thick on the ground.

Mr Ibrahim argues that the prize is needed because many African leaders come from poor backgrounds and are tempted to hang on to power for fear that poverty is what awaits them when they give up the levers of power.

But our analyst says recent evidence of the prize's effectiveness across Africa is not encouraging.

Uganda, Chad and Cameroon have all changed their constitutions so their leaders can retain their positions.

Incentives must be given to leaders of volatile, corrupt and under developed nations if they perform admirably. Punishment must also be meted out if they mess up
Ezekiel Pombe, Kisumu

There have been coups in Guinea, Mauritania and Madagascar, as well as several elections that fell well short of international standards.

And the countries that have received most praise from Mo Ibrahim's foundation this year - Mauritius, Cape Verde and Seychelles - are far from the continent's centres of power.

Botswana's former President Festus Mogae won the prize last year, after two terms at the helm of one of Africa's least corrupt and most prosperous nations.

The inaugural prize was given to Joaquim Chissano, Mozambique's former president, who has since acted as a mediator in several African disputes.

What does it say about the continent's quality of leadership if Mo Ibrahim is not handing out his prize for good governance this year?

Thanks for your comments. Please read a selection below:

Perhaps it is worth pointing out that Mr Ibrahim himself does not award the prize, and has nothing to do with the decision. The Prize is awarded by a Prize Committee made up of presidents and Nobel Laureates, amongst others: Kofi Annan, Mohamed El Baradei, etc.
Simon Allison, Durban, South Africa

It's really sad that people like Mr. Mo Ibrahim are not encouraged by recent developments in many African states. I quite agree with him for not giving the prize thereby compromising the good intent for the awards. Our leaders need to learn to be selfless and see beyond their nose in terms of their future when they leave office. If they do well, and successfully hand over to equally good (or better) leaders, their future is guaranteed and history will remember them for good. We have a proverb that says "A good name is to be chosen above riches!". Thank you Mr. Mo Ibrahim, we pray many more like you rise up for good leadership and governance.
Oluseyi A. Osifalujo, Lagos, Nigeria

I am impressed with the fact that there is not going to be the award this year, even without reason. I would like to believe that it will at least make Africans think, why? This award, just as with the Nobel prizes, will always draw a lot of debating. What we should all hail, is the intention being the prize. It serves as a very good and present call to good governance. Lets all talk a minute to try and understand Mr. Ibrahim's reasons for changing his mind this year. Look at the violence, coups, killing of a president, uncertainty in Zimbabwe, Madagascar... And by the way. $5000 000,00 is a whole lot of money. So if one is to win it, they must earn it.
S. J. Dique, Chimoio, Mozambique

Mo Ibrihim' decision not to give any price money this year confirms the very fear and distrust of many African leader, that nothing is so guaranteeing than remaining always in power. If Mo can amend his own promises (to save his money), why shouldn´t the African presidents not amend their constitutions to remain in power?
Román, Kampala

First, credit and recognition goes to Mo Ibrahim for being a true son of my continent, Africa. The world continues to move forward while Africa still languishes behind. It is because of these dictators who want to stay in power at the detriment of the people. Thank you Mo for not awarding these former corrupt leaders who were not able to dry the African tears when they were in Office. I am very much delighted that none of them will be awarded for this year. The money they have stolen is enough for them and please Mo, I am appealing to you once again. Please, it will be of immense and overwhelming benefit if you can divert the awards to help combat malaria, alleviating poverty and educating those underprivileged. These awards will not discourage these dictators to step down for the interest of African peace. Please, Mo, consider my point. Africa needs leaders who can dry the tears of Africans not to steal our funds, unlawful arrest our own people and killing of innocent people. Just like the stupid Captain Dadis Camara of Guinea. Bravo Mo! You are a true son of Africa. We love you so much!
Edward Ceesay, Kafuta, The Gambia

Evidence of how corrupt African leaders are - you need to bribe them to lead their nations they way they should in any case.
Brandon, Berlin

I think Mr Mo Ibrahim is broke because of the credit crunch and he should tell us. But to say that neither Mr. Kufour nor Mr Mbeki deserves the award this year does not hold water. Mr Mo Ibrahim is disappointment and the award should be scratch to save our ears.
Isaac Ampofo, Sogakope Ghana

Has any one done an analysis of the long term sustainability of this award programme, especially in the light of global economic downturn? There may lie a hidden factor in the decision not to award the prize this year, which is entirely the initiator's right and cannot be questioned.
radcliffe spencer, silver spring maryland usa

In 2007, Museveni said he didn't need the 5 million dollars because he was not poor. In a way he was justifying his brutal, authoritarian, corrupt, inept and sectarian rule. I think what Museveni said was loud manifestation and contention of the attitude of those like him who have not only stayed too long in power but also ruined their countries. I commend Mr Mo though for his goodwill and generosity in trying to encourage clean leadership in Africa through that little token of appreciation. How I wish it performed miracles! I think Africa needs a second liberation movement from the youthful generation to rid itself of the current crop of evil men at the helm of leadership in various countries. Such external incentives of Mr Mo can't help the situation.
Alex FRee, Arua, Uganda

Disagreeing with some of the comments above- I think the Mo Ibrahim prize is a privilege and it's at his discretion whether to allow the award go to any deserving person this year. I find the tones of some of these responses bemusing as it's certainly not a right that it goes to any leader believed to be deserving. Most African democracies as it is, is pathetic and I personally think there is hardly any deserving leader especially with the prevailing state of poverty and backwardness that lingers in most African nations. Mo hasn't done any disservice to democracy and leaders should serve their countries on the strength of their constitutional duties and not because there is a prize to be gained. It's a selfless duty which they have undertaken voluntarily and I find it laughable that one of the commentators above suggests that if some of these African leaders weren't from rich homes, they wouldn't be leaders of their political parties. How preposterous is that assumption?? He doesn't owe any explanation either- i presume it's his money we are on about here?
O Sede , Birmingham

I would highly appreciate Ibrahim's decision this year. Of all his efforts to please the African leaders so that they would practice better democratic reforms, it seems none of them dared to appreciate. Wars, constitutional change, coups, terrorism and election rigging are the best words to define African States. I would suggest Ibrahim uses this award to educate those needy children from Africa or use it for some Agricultural or other Economic reforms.
Mules James, Juba, Sudan

let mr ibrahim, know that we shld not sedice leaders by giving them awards to give good governance but at least we can use that kind of money to teach the whole of africa how we can overcome global warming and poverty and to talk to the western world to open the market to every one.
rwakachocho wilberforce, kampala, uganda

I am disheartened by this development! this is a cover-up for a bigger problem with the award and not the absence of worthy recipients. it was just the other day when i was listening to Mo Ibrahim on BBC's the Interview and he was waxing rhapsodic about the need to reward African leaders on good governance. and it is not that there are deserving former presidents this year. Mr Kufuor would have been an obvious winner. I was almost appealing to Mr Ibrahim to broaden the award to include other African leaders in other fields who have made an impact in Africa and the world at large, i had Kofi Annan in mind. now the award is in chaos. is there a year when awarding of Nobel Prizes has been skipped? please enlighten me! am discouraged by this development!
kiprotich, Nairobi

The BBC has posed a question, but what really needs to be answered is why on earth would this article argue that BBC analysts don't think that the good governance prize has effected change in Africa? The prize has been in existence for three years, and what's more, I really doubt that Mo Ibrahim or anyone else expects this one initiative alone to change politics across Africa. It's a shame that the BBC was so keen to have an interesting end to the article that you did not think twice about doing this at the expense of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. By setting the benchmark for success so high that everyone who tries will fail, the BBC is not contributing to democratic change in Africa.
Andrea, Ottawa, Canada

What it means is that, the concept of democracy is still not understood by African leaders.
Yousif a hamid, Alajo Accra Ghana

Mr. Ibrahim's decision not to award his prize for good governance says a lot more about his own flawed theory than the habitual failure of African leaders to extol the virtues of democracy and practice good governance. Most Africans who long to live in a well govern country, like Mr. Ibrahim, have rather decided to pack their bags and apply their enormous talents for the good of their adopted country than continue the seemingly ceaseless series of battles to bring good governance to African countries.
Symeon Onipede, London

Well, I express much gratitude to Mr Ibrahim for his awards. However no one requested him to institute any price for African leaders, he did that on his own volition. If he now thinks there is no reason to award anyone this year, so be it. He may as well scrap the entire scheme and surely he will have no African leader to debate him on that. The fact is whether or not there is such an award, leaders committed to good governance will do so and the convex will also hold for it doesn't necessarily take a schooling at the Vatican to reform a stubborn child. With or without his carrots the characteristics of African rabbits are evidently displayed on the continent for everyone to see.
Sir Ras, Kumasi, Ghana

I am disappointed. Mo Ibrahim should have given at least a reason the decision. Ghana has been hailed the world over for an impeccable democratic and governance credentials in sub-Saharan Africa. President Obama's visit here is a vivid and remarkable confirmation. The 2008 general election was the hottest and closest in the history of Ghana. Amidst this circumstances, President Kufour handed over power peacefully to the opposition who won by some thousands vote. Ghana saw a tremendous improvement in all spheres of our national lives due to the able leadership of President Kufour. President Kufuor deserved this award. I am truly devastated by this development.

Mo Ibrahim is being honest with himself. He has a responsibility to maintain his integrity. He is fully aware that there are serious questions being asked about the stewardship of prospective winners.
Ateks Ebbe, Accra, Ghana

it is very unfortunate the award is going prizeless this least Mr Ibrahim have done us good if he was able to give us some explanation, which will go a long way to serve as a guide for future potential leaders. i think the planning committee has not been fair to the two forerunners of the award. that's John Kufuor and Thebo Mbeki.
george boachie, kumasi, ghana

Mo Ibrahim should be first to know that the issue of leadership ,corruption and periodic constitutional amendments are some of the challenges on the continent and these challenges have been with us from the commencement of democracy. mr. ibrahim should please look at the positive side of his initiative and continue with his good work. again i don't agree that African leaders are not coming from a poor background but a good one. if there weren't coming from a much more richer home could they have leaders of there political party? i want to take this opportunity to urge Mo Ibrahim to reconsider his decision.
samuel mantey, ghana

For refusing to hand out this year award to a competent leader like former Ghanaian leader John KUFOUR, Mo Ibrahim has done a great disservice towards Africa's match to democracy.
SETH ACHEAMPONG, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Refraining from awarding the prize this year without giving reasons is like a dictator making decisions without counting on the people points of view. What makes him different from the African dictators? Just because he's running the show single headedly doesn't mean he should disrespect our leaders without a concrete reason. If you want to do it, do it. if you don't want to do it, don't pretend like you want to do it. If your foundation is running out of funds, say it, unlike trying to blindfold us with some untrue reasons. I'm so sorry if this offends you Mr Mo, but I'm so disappointed with this decision. It's really like disrespecting our former leaders.
Ismael Reed, Johannesburg

I think it's a good idea for not awarding any past African Leader for this year. Apparently, non of them can be said to free from massive corruption and abuse of power allegations and it is in the interest of the awardees not be seen as pay back time for their collaborators in the perpetuating of these crimes against their own people.
Victor Mills Asimenu, Accra-Ghana

i don't think that african governance deserve the award! their have not been any improvement, instead it is worsen!!!
Francis okeke, Gambia

I think the foundation would best serve children who are trying to surpass hard economic conditions to attain any level of education, African leaders are well heeled by the time they leave office.
angela kariuki, nairobi kenya

I am from Botswana and studying in Australia. Mr Thabo Mbeki being given the price would have absolutely undermined its significance due to his handling of the Zimbabwe case. He was one of the few people who was blind enough not to see the brutality of Mugabe's regime. But with Mr Kufuor i dont know. Mr Ibrahim has vision.
mopati h toteng, Adelaide, Australia

Really bad, we should all encourage Mr. Mo Ibrahim, he is a true son of Africa who would like to see our children having a great future. However, the dark future planner politicians think that they would make more money in power if they change the constitution and retain the power rather than taking a hand out from Mr. Mo Ibrahim. I think the African Union should start controlling every African government and remove by force any leader who would like to stay in power for ever. The key success is to educate the illiterates who are easily manipulated.
Jean-Paul Benda, London, UK

It is very unfortunate and a sad day for African democracies.
Peter B. Gwala, Windhoek & Namibia

Mr Ibrahim's refusal to give the prize goes to highlight the fact that African democracies are failing. Democratic leaders have not been examples of non-corrupt leadership even in the countries where the ex-presidents have been nominated. There is an unfortunate re-emergence of dictators on the continent with leaders attempting to and some successfully transferring power to their sons in some case in doubtful elections. When elected leaders give good leadership, the prizes are worth giving.
Yaw Owusu-Brefo, Accra, Ghana

It would have been very sad if Mr John Kufour had been given the award this year for good governance. I'm very happy he did not get it. This our ex-President was deeply steeped in corruption. Many decisions that his government made were to the detriment of the people of Ghana. He made sure that he benefitted from every deal and contract that his government was involved in. It is a well-known fact in Ghana that his government looted the country's coffers for the benefit of only his friends and family. I don't know too much about Mr Thabo Mbeki, but I can say volumes about Mr Kufour, because I have some of the facts. Thank you, Mo Ibrahim.
J. Logo-Azagu, Tema, Ghana

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