JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A $5 million prize for good African governance was awarded Monday to the former president of Cape Verde, cited for turning his small island nation into a model of democracy, stability and prosperity.
In an announcement made in London and broadcast across Africa, the Mo Ibrahim prize committee said that during his 10 years in power, Pedro Verona Pires helped lead the nation of 200,000 off West Africa’s coast out of poverty and won recognition for his human rights record.
Last year and the year before, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation prize committee did not award a prize, saying no leaders met the criteria for promoting development and democracy — and for handing over power peacefully.
In citing Pires, the committee that included Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt and former Ibrahim prize winner Festus Mogae of Botswana said the Cape Verde leader, at the end of his second term, dismissed suggestions the constitution be changed to allow him to run again.
Pires was appointed independent Cape Verde’s first prime minister in 1975. He remained in the post for 16 years, then lost his country’s first democratic elections in 1991.
Pires was then elected in 2001 and again five years later.
"Cape Verde is now seen as an African success story, economically, socially and politically," the prize citation said.
The prize created in 2007 by Sudan-born billionaire Mo Ibrahim awards $5 million over 10 years and $200,000 annually for life thereafter.
The previous winners of the Ibrahim prize are Mozambique’s former President Joaquim Chissano, who brought peace and democracy to his country; and Mogae, who as president campaigned to lower the HIV infection rate in Botswana. Former South African President Nelson Mandela was named an honorary laureate of the prize in 2007.