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Ex-Mozambique president Chissano wins first Mo Ibrahim prize for African leadership

Ex-Mozambique president Chissano wins first Mo Ibrahim prize for African leadership

Former President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, who led his country's recovery from its devastating 16-year civil war, on Monday won the first Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African leadership.
Chissano wins a US$5 million (euro3.5 million) award set up last year with the intention of promoting good governance in Africa and rewarding leaders for retiring early, rather than dragging out their rule.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced the winner at London's glass, egg-shaped City Hall.
"President Chissano's achievements in bringing peace, reconciliation, stable democracy and economic progress to his country greatly impressed the committee," Annan said. "So, too, did his decision to step down."
Chissano was in southern Sudan, where as a special envoy to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, he has been mediating peace talks between Ugandan rebels and the Ugandan government, according to Yulya Vanetik, an assistant to Chissano at the U.N.'s Department of Political Affairs.
Chissano, who turned 68 on Monday, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Chissano voluntarily relinquished power in 2004 after governing Mozambique for 18 years following the death of the country's first president, Samora Machel.
As president, Chissano brokered a lasting peace after Mozambique's postcolonial civil war and oversaw the East African nation's transition from Marxism to a free market economy.
He was a former chairman of the African Union and worked to find solutions to wars in Burundi, Congo, Ivory Coast and Sudan.
Mozambican newspaper publisher Salomao Moyane praised Chissano as a pioneer of press freedom in the country, saying that his independent Zambezi newspaper otherwise could not have been published.
Chissano "can withstand any criticism," he said, praising his role in negotiating an end to Mozambique's war and giving the southern African nation a democratic constitution.
Marlene Magaia, a 39-year-old bank clerk who grew up with her country at war, called Chissano "the father of the nation."
"We love him because he is a man of peace," she said.
The prize, established by Ibrahim, a Sudanese billionaire, was awarded by a committee that assessed every sub-Saharan African leader who has left office in the past three years.
The prize committee praised Chissano for the economic progress he brought to his southeast African nation and credited him with success in poverty-reduction programs, infrastructure development and work to tackle HIV/AIDS.
But it said Chissano's role in leading Mozambique from conflict to peace and democracy was his most outstanding achievement.
"That's what was rare about Chissano," said committee member Aicha Bah Diallo, Guinea's former education minister. "He managed to speak with (the opposition), to respect them, and to bring them to the table. That's where he showed his force of character, his leadership. How many leaders have done this?"
Critics have argued that Ibrahim, a former mobile phone mogul, was wasting his money on a quixotic effort to bribe African leaders into behaving themselves.
Ibrahim said the media focused too much on the money, which he said was small change in comparison with what some European leaders make after leaving office. He expressed the hope the prize soon will be seen as a mark of respect rather than a cash handout.
"In time, the honor will be more important than the money," he said.
How Chissano spends the prize money will be up to him, Annan said.
The prize was intended to inspire a new generation of African leaders to step forward, Ibrahim said. He noted that London and its mayor, Ken Livingstone, had recently honored anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela by erecting a statue of him in Parliament Square.
"My hope is we're going to have too many Nelson Mandelas in the 21st century," he said. "Ken, you're going to need a lot of space."
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Associated Press writers Emmanuel Camillo Ntave in Maputo, Mozambique, and Michelle Faul in Johannesburg, South Africa, contributed to this report.
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On the Net:
http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org


Updated : 2021-10-28 18:29 GMT+08:00