Contrary to general beliefs that former president of Ghana John Agyekum Kufuor was going to win the highest ex-political leaders award on the continent, ‘The Mo Ibrahim Prize’ on a silver plate, it has turned out that the awards committee, made up of some of the world’s eminent and proven achievers and personalities, have rather set up a higher benchmark for prospective winners.
While the announcement that no candidate actually won this year’s award of five million US dollars may send thrills of joy right down the hearts of the political opponents of Kufuor, his friends and close family who were hoping to use the award as a cover to save him from his fiercest critics remain hugely disappointed. This is likely to cause a deep pain on Kufuor’s fine thoughts about himself, and also make him wonder forever why the committee denied him in particular.
The Prize aims to encourage leaders who fully dedicate their constitutional tenure of office to surmount the development challenges of their countries, improving the welfare of their people and consolidating the foundation for sustainable development. It also hopes the Prize will heighten discussion across societies about the criteria by which all governments' records should best be assessed.
In selecting of the Mo Ibrahim Laureate, the Prize Committee will review the following criteria:-
1. The prize will be awarded for the performance of their country during their time in office, relative to all Sub-Saharan African countries.
2. National progress must be reflected in the following areas of governance:
A. Sustainable Economic Development
B. Human Development: Health and Education
C. Transparency, including the fight against corruption, and empowerment of civil society
D. Democracy and Human Rights
E. Rule of Law and Security.
THE BOARD OF MO IBRAHIM
The Ibrahim laureates are selected by an independent prize committee which assesses eligible candidates from Africa during their time in office. The committee which sat for this year’s awards included; Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland, Aicha bah Diallo, former Minister of Education and Director of Basic Education UNESCO, Mohammed El-Baradei, Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency, Graca Machel, Chancellor of University of Cape Town, Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and Salim Ahmed Salim, former Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity and former Prime Minister of Tanzania.
Undoubtedly, the Mo Ibrahim award over the years, has had winners such as Mozambican former president Chissano in 2007 and in 2008 Festus Gontebanye Mogae former president of Botswana won.
With President Chissano, his achievements in bringing peace, reconciliation, stable democracy and economic progress to his country greatly impressed the committee. So, too, did his decision to step down without seeking the third term the constitution allowed.
President Chissano took office after winning his country’s first multi-party elections in 1994. The historic elections were held just two years after he had helped the country end, through negotiations, the 16-year civil war which had devastated Mozambique, left thousands dead and forced many to flee their homes. He led a country whose infrastructure and economy were ruined, its society deeply divided and which suffered from severe natural disasters.
Huge challenges remain but, under his two terms, Mozambique established a stable economy with robust growth and increased foreign direct investment. Its economy has been one of Africa’s emerging success stories. Although Mozambique remains one of the poorest countries in the world, poverty levels have fallen.
President Mogae's outstanding leadership ensured Botswana's continued stability and prosperity in the face of an HIV/AIDS pandemic which threatened the future of his country and people. Mogae currently serves as Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Climate Change
While Members of the Prize Committee are expected to ascribe to the values of the Prize and assure their independence, integrity, and lack of conflict of interests, according to the terms of reference for committee members, it appears something has happened this time which has everything to do with some business interests elsewhere on the continent and also bothers on the high integrity standards set by the Mo Foundation.
The MO Ibrahim awards committee has the following standards and procedure to follow;
1. First considering the results of the Ibrahim Index and its implications
2. Reviewing eligible candidates (including any background materials prepared and the performance of their countries during their terms in office according to the Index and more widely)
3. Preparing a short list of candidates
4. Considering the merits of the short-listed candidates
5. Selecting the Laureate (or determining that no one merits such designation this year)
6. Outlining reasons to be made public for the choice - focusing only on the Laureate and not on candidates passed over
THE NOMINEES FOR 2009
The nominated persons for this year of which one was expected to be awarded were ex-president of Ghana, John Agyekum Kuffour, Olusegun Obasanjo, former Nigerian President, Ahmed Tejan Kaba, Sierra Leone former president and Thabo Mbeki, former South African president.
If the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership is to African heads of state who deliver security, health, education and economic development to their constituents, and who democratically transfer power to their successor, then probably, a few of this year’s nominees like Obasanjo and Mbeki, who interfered with the democratic processes in their respective countries, might have problems getting passed because of their own tainted democratic credentials.
This Award, from an African Foundation, is a celebration of achievement in Africa.
Presidential achievements in bringing peace, reconciliation, stable democracy and economic progress to their country are highly rated by the committee.
But even Obasanjo had some positives during his tenure.
Before Obasanjo's administration Nigeria's GDP growth had been painfully slow since 1987, and only managed 3% between 1999/2000.
However, under Obasanjo the growth rate doubled to 6% until he left office, helped in part by higher oil prices. Nigeria's foreign reserves rose from $2 billion in 1999 to $43 billion on leaving office in 2007. He was able to secure debt pardons from the Paris and London club amounting to some $10 billion.
However, a growing number of critics within Nigeria accused Obasanjo's government of selectively targeting his anti-corruption drive against political opponents and ethnic militants, ignoring growing concerns about wide-scale corruption within his own inner political circle.
Obasanjo was embroiled in controversy regarding his "Third Term Agenda," a plan to modify the Nigerian constitution so he could serve a third, four-year term as President. The bill was not ratified by the Nigerian National Assembly. Consequently, President Obasanjo stepped down after the April 2007 general elections.
Mbeki, as an ANC insider and while president, was a major force behind the continued neo-liberal structure of the South African economy. He drew criticism from the left for his perceived abandonment of state-interventionist social democratic economic policies – such as nationalization, land reform, and democratic capital controls – prescribed by the freedom charter, the ANC's seminal document.
Mbeki has been a notably powerful figure in African politics, positioning South Africa as a regional power broker and also promoting the idea that African political conflicts should be solved by Africans. He headed the formation of both the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the Africa Union (AU), and has played influential roles in brokering peace deals in Rwanda, Burundi, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He has also tried to popularize the concept of an African Renaissance.
In 2004, President Thabo Mbeki made an attack on commentators who argued that violent crime was out of control in South Africa, calling them white racists who want the country to fail.
South Africa's proximity, strong trade links, and similar struggle credentials place the country in a unique position to influence politics in Zimbabwe.
Mbeki was frequently criticized for having failed to exert pressure on Mr. Mugabe to relinquish power, but chaired meetings in which the Zimbabwean leader's departure from power is being negotiated. He rejected calls in May 2007 for tough action against Zimbabwe ahead of a visit by the then-UK Prime Minister Toni Blair. He said on 29 July 2007 that Zimbabwe elections in March 2008 must be 'free and fair'. An article critical of Mbeki's handling of Mugabe appeared in Forbes and claimed a peaceful transfer of power in Zimbabwe "will not be because of [Mbeki], but in spite of him.
In 2005, Mbeki removed Jacob Zuma, from his post as Deputy President of South Africa, after Zuma was implicated in a corruption scandal. In October 2005, some supporters of Zuma (who remained deputy president of the ANC), burned T-shirts portraying Mbeki's picture at a protest. In late 2005, Zuma faced new rape charges, which dimmed his political prospects.
There was visible split between Zuma's supporters and Mbeki's allies in the ANC.
Mbeki, although barred by the Constitution of South Africa from seeking a third term as president of the country, in 2007, entered the race to be President of the ANC (no term limit exists for the position of ANC president), for a third term, in a close battle with Jacob Zuma. He lost this vote against Jacob Zuma, and Zuma went on to be the ANC's presidential candidate in the 2009 general elections.
He formally announced his resignation on 21 September 2008. This came a few days after the dismissal of a trial against ANC President Jacob Zuma on charges of corruption due to procedural errors.
Allusions were made in the ruling to possible political interference by Mbeki and others in his prosecution. Parliament convened on 22 September and accepted his resignation with effect from 25 September.
After the military coup in 1992, he was asked to chair the National Advisory Council, one of the mechanisms set up by the military to alleviate the restoration of constitutional rule, including the drafting of a new constitution for Sierra Leone.
Kabbah, was seen as a compromise candidate when he was put forward by Sierra Leone People Party (SLPP) as their presidential hopeful in the 1996 Presidential and Parliamentary elections, the first multi-party elections in twenty-three years. The SLPP won the legislative vote overwhelmingly in the South and Eastern Province of the country, they split the vote with the UNPP in the Western and they lost in the Northern part.
On March 29, 1996, Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was sworn in as President of Sierra Leone. Guided by his philosophy of "political inclusion" he appointed the most broad-based government in the nation's history, drawing from all political parties represented in Parliament, and ‘technocrats’ in civil society. One minority party did not accept his offer of a cabinet post.
The President's first major objective was to end the rebel war which, in four years had already claimed hundreds of innocent lives, driven thousands of others into refugee status, and ruined the nation's economy. In November 1996, in Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire, he signed a peace agreement with the rebel leader, former Corporal Foday Sankoh of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).
In May 1997, a military coup forced the President into exile in neighbouring Guinea. The coup was led by the RUF, and Koroma was freed and installed as the head of state. Kabbah's government was revived nine months later as the military-rebel junta was removed by troops of the (ECOWAS) under the command of the Nigerian led ECOMOG.
Once again, in pursuit of peace, President Kabbah signed the Lome Peace Accord with the RUF rebel leader Foday Sankoh on 7 July 1999.
As the first leader after the civil war, Kabbah's main task was to disarm the different parties involved in the war and to build unity of the country. Time magazine has called Kabbah a "diamond in the rough" for his success as the first civilian elected ruler of Sierra Leone in 34 years and his role in the end of what became a decade long conflict from 1992 until 2000.
Although he himself was not considered corrupt, Kabbah has been accused of inability to deal with corrupt officials in his government many of whom are said to be profiting from the diamond trade. Kabbah has struggled with this problem and invited the British to help set up an anti-corruption commission.
Kabbah left office in September 2007 at the end of his second 5-year term. Constitutionally, he is ineligible to seek re-election. His Vice-President, Solomon Berewa, ran as the SLPP candidate to succeed Kabbah but was defeated by opposition candidate Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC.
Kabbah was the head of the Commonwealth’s Observer Mission for the December 2007 Kenyan election as well as the head of the African Union's observer mission for the March 2008 Zimbabwean election.
His administration’s domestic policy in the first term was marked by fiscal and monetary stringency on the economic front aimed at stabilizing a national economy that had stagnated and was in decline. His social vision was anchored on unleashing the entrepreneurial, creative and innovative potential of Ghanaians as a means of creating wealth and hence dealing with the social challenges facing Ghanaians.
This socio-economic vision was encapsulated in the Five Priority Areas Programme vis the pursuit of good governance, modernization of agriculture for rural development, private sector participation, enhanced social services and vigorous infrastructural development.
President Kufuor’s second term used the three pronged approach of Private Sector Development, Human Resource Development and Good Governance. At the international level, President Kufuor consolidated Ghana’s position as the voice of Africa, credible peace broker, beacon of democracy (Ghana is the first country to undergo Peer Review under NEPAD’s Africa Peer Review Mechanism) and responsible member of the comity of nations.
His tenure of office saw the introduction of the Capitation Grant, the School Feeding Programme, National Health Insurance Scheme, the National Identity Card, among other socially beneficial projects such as the Metro Mass Bus Service.
On 29 January 2007, Kufuor was elected as the Chairperson of the Africa Union for the 2007-2008 AU session. He was succeeded by Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania on 31 January 2008.
President Kufuor’s good governance policy led to Ghana obtaining a record $500 million grant from the U.S Millennium Challenge Account for economic development.
Some of the sad commentaries about the Kufuor 8 year regime definitely have been the missing cocaine under the full glare of the IGP who was given a national award to top, fall out of the sale of GT to Vodafone Plc.
A school of thought has opined that the scandals surrounding the suspected individualistic deal negotiation by the former president with Vodafone officials without any state official or institutional involvement was in itself, untenable and unbecoming of a sitting president and also presents a clear case of conflict of interest, portrays mistrust in his own appointed officials and unwillingness to be transparent.
This has reopened old wounds on the acquisition of a certain property which has come to be known as Hotel de Waa Waa. The politically twisted episodes surrounding the death of the Ya Na and Issa Molbila and his inability to bring peace to DAGBON, Cote d’ Ivoire, and Kenya, are just a few of some of the crises he failed in mediating and bringing a lasting peace to, and also the untimely construction of the presidential palace known as Golden Jubilee House.
These are some of the unpalatable issues surrounding Mr. Kufuor, which his critics are gleefully raking into with vigour and may have come to the attention of the Mo Ibrahim Prize Committee.
The pro government party newspapers have alleged that the MO Ibrahim Prize was just to say thank you to Kufuor for successfully selling the then WESTERN TELECOMMUNICATIONS to current holders ZAIN.
Rumours have it that the owner and founder of Mo Ibrahim Foundation and now Zain Communications are and still the same person.
The right to use of a huge bank loan and subsequent purchase of a certain property which has now become known as Hotel De Waa Waa is still a problem no matter how hard the former president has tried to distance his entire family from.
For now, if there is anything that President Kufuor can be remembered for, only future posterity would tell. However, a case is being made for good leadership examples to be set by African leaders and for African leaders particularly those who would want to be remembered by future generations.
To all African leaders here is a famous Shakespeare quotation “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool” and to former president Kufuor “Ambition Should Be Made of Sterner Stuff.”
Source: Abu Issa Monnie
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