Super-prize turns African heads


JF-Expert Member
Feb 11, 2007
Super-prize turns African heads
BBC News Online

As former African leaders wait to see who has won the Mo Ibrahim prize for good governance, BBC world affairs correspondent Mark Doyle finds Mozambique ex-President Joaquim Chissano's shock and amusement at the value of the prize endearing.
"It's worth how much? Five MILLION dollars?"

Mr Chissano is one of the few African leaders to give up power
Former President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique was in shock.

I was standing with Mr Chissano in Maputo's Independence Square.

The evening was drawing in.

The sounds of birds in the trees and children playing soccer were blending nicely with the radio interview I was conducting with him.

But the most revealing sound I recorded that day was the sharp intake of breath from the former president when I told him the value of the cash prize being awarded for the best former African president.

"Yes, it's five million US dollars", I explained again.

Mr Chissano repeated the number: "You're sure it's five MILLION?"

"Yes, sir".

Encouraging democracy

The winner of the Mo Ibrahim prize for African governance is to be announced on 22 October at a ceremony in London hosted by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Sudanese businessman Mo Ibrahim is sponsoring the prize

The financial backer of the prize, the Sudanese businessman Mo Ibrahim - the man behind Africa's successful CelTel mobile phone networks - is awarding $500,000 (£245,000) per year for 10 years, and $200,000 (£98,000) per year thereafter, for life... so the prize is actually more than the $5m (£2.45m) that made Joaquim Chissano gasp.

The idea is to encourage democracy, transparency and decency.

All 11 former presidents who left office in Africa in 2004, 2005 or 2006 are automatically eligible for consideration.

A spokesman for Mo Ibrahim said the "long list" of candidates (i.e. the list of eligibles who have not been selected in any way by the judges) was, in no particular order:

Mathieu Kerekou (Benin)
Azali Assoumani (Comoros)
Domitien Ndayizeye (Burundi)
Henrique Rosa (Guinea Bissau)
Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya (Mauritania)
Joaquim Chissano (Mozambique)
Sam Nujoma (Namibia)
Benjamin Mkapa (Tanzania)
Abass Bonfoh (Togo)
Gnassingbe Eyadema (Togo)
Bakili Muluzi (Malawi)
France-Albert Rene (Seychelles)
Abdiqassim Salad Hassan (Somalia)
Relaxed and open

I decided to travel to Mozambique to meet former President Chissano because he seems like a possible winner.

I would live better, of course ... I would not be shy!

Joaquin Chissano

He helped negotiate peace in his country and was a key ally of Nelson Mandela in his struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

Today, in his retirement, he cuts an "elder statesman" image and is often called upon by bodies like the United Nations to be an envoy or negotiator.

But none of that lofty stuff stopped Joaquim Chissano from being shocked, then amused, about the size of the prize.

"So what would you do with the money", I asked, "if you won?"

"Well", he smiled, "I would live better, of course ... I would not be shy!"

Then he burst into laughter.

It is fairly rare to catch a VIP off-guard like this, and I found Mr Chissano's honest reaction rather endearing.

The moment also reflected the former president's relative openness and his relaxed style.

He was chuckling away while the small boys continued to kick their football and the traffic flowed around us.

There were a few bodyguards nearby, admittedly, but if they were armed they were very discreet about it.

Road to peace

I asked him about the peace agreement he forged for Mozambique in the early 1990s and he recalled the first time he had met the former Mozambican rebel (now opposition leader) Afonso Dhlakama.

Alfonso Dhlakama would not resent Mr Chissano getting the prize

Mr Dhlakama led the apartheid-era South African-backed Renamo movement.

The peace meeting had been brokered by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

"Before saying hello, I said to Mr Dhlakama 'Do you want peace?', and I prepared to hold out my hand," Mr Chissano explained.

"He replied that he did want peace, so I extended my hand and he shook it. That handshake was the start of peace."

Of course, in reality, it was all a bit more complicated than that.

Mozambique was able to move towards peace in no small measure because the anti-apartheid struggle was nearing victory.

The various southern African rebel groups, including Renamo, that white South Africa had nurtured to destabilise countries that helped Mr Mandela, were losing steam.

And Mr Mandela was about to make Mozambique one of Pretoria's best friends, no longer an enemy.

Nevertheless, well-placed diplomats credit Mr Chissano with being a major player in the search for peace in southern Africa and beyond.

They say his ability to compromise and negotiate is a great strength which has helped Mozambique become a stable, modernising, democratic country.

'Share it with me'

I later asked Mr Dhlakama about the ground-breaking peace negotiation he had had with Mr Chissano. He recalled the event rather differently.

Mozambique is more democratic, but poverty is still widespread

"I went into the room and I said 'how are you?' in English. Our common language is of course Portuguese but we had to speak in English because Mr Mugabe was our host."

"Mr Chissano replied 'Fine, thank you and how are you?'. Then we sat down to talk."

But so much for the serious history of Mozambique and the anti-apartheid struggle. As with Mr Chissano, the subject that was really concentrating Mr Dhlakama's mind when I spoke to him in Maputo was the $5m prize.

"Five MILLION dollars?". Mr Dhlakama was shocked too.

But he recovered enough to ask me what Mr Chissano would have to do with the money.

"Whatever he wants," I replied.

Mr Dhlakama said he would be pleased for Mozambique if Mr Chissano won the prize.

He had his political differences with him, he stressed, but he would be pleased if the good image of Mozambique were to be honoured in this way.

But then Mr Dhlakama thought about it and his face broke into a grin.

If Mr Chissano wins the money, he said, he should share it with others who helped make peace.

And then the clincher, to peels of laughter from Mr Dhlakama and his aides:

"He would have to share it with me!"
hahahah , i heard mkapa is dreaming about the 5 millions :d
Akishinda itakuwa ni Majonzi kwa Watanzania, maana hakaribii criteria yoyote katika zile zitakazotumika kuamua mshindi ni yupi. Alikuwa busy kuwatetea mafisadi, wala rushwa na kujilimbikizia mali.
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