AFRICA’S FIRST FEMALE HEAD OF STATE TO RECEIVE $5 MILLION
The former president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has been award the Ibrahim African Leadership prize, the first time the prize has been awarded since 2015. In addition to the honour of winning the award Ms Sirleaf, Africa’s first female head of state, will receive $5 million over the next 10 years and $200,000 per year for life after that period.
Sirleaf, who stood down as Liberia’s president last month after the election the former football star George Weah, was credited by the prize committee with leading a process of reconciliation and building up the democratic institutions of the country.
Salim Ahmed Salim who chaired the prize committee said: “Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focused on building a nation and it democratic institutions”.
“During her twelve years in office”, Salim continued, “Ellen Johnson Sirleaf laid the foundations on which Liberia can now build”.
“A GREAT INSPIRATION TO WOMEN”
Salim also declared that in winning the award Ms Sirleaf would inspire others. “This is going to be a great inspiration to women”, Salim stated, “It is going to make young girls know that, if they stay the course and if you continue to pursue your potential in life, you can be rewarded and recognised”.
In 2011 Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was also awarded the Nobel Peace prize.
The Ibrahim African leadership prize, named after Mo Ibrahim, the billionaire communications entrepreneur who bequeathed it in 2006, can be awarded to a democratically elected former head of state who has left office in the last three years having completed their constitutionally mandated term in office.
Since the first award of the prize in 2007 to the former president of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano, there have been some years where the committee have not found someone worthy of receiving it. No award was made in 2009 and 2010, or in 2012 and 2013, and no prize has been awarded in the last two years.
Some have criticised the award even to Ms Sirleaf, accusing her of tolerating corruption in Liberia and of nepotism in the appointment of family members. The prize committee, whilst acknowledging these concerns, noted that she had shown “exceptional leadership” in extremely difficult circumstances.