Mozambique's former president wins prize for African leadership

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The Independent Online

Mozambique's former president, Joaquim Chissano, who brought peace and democracy to his country, won the first Mo Ibrahim Prize today for achievement in African leadership.

Chissano wins a cash award of $5 million (£2.5 million) - a prize intended to encourage African leaders to govern well. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced the award during a ceremony in London.

"The prize celebrates more than just good governance," Annan said in a statement. "It celebrates leadership."

The prize was established by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which was launched last year to boost governance in Africa. The winner was selected by a committee that assessed every sub-Saharan African leader who has left office in the past three years.

Chissano is likely to come under close scrutiny from Ibrahim's detractors, some of whom accuse the former cell-phone mogul of wasting his money trying to bribe African leaders into behaving themselves.

Chissano, who celebrates his 68th birthday today, was in southern Sudan, where he has been mediating peace talks between Ugandan rebels and the Ugandan government, according to Yulya Vanetik, an assistant to Chissano at the UN's Department of Political Affairs. Chissano has been mediating the talks as a special envoy of the UN secretary-general.

Chissano 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 for 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.

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 Annan said Chissano's role in leading Mozambique from conflict to peace and democracy was his most outstanding contribution.

He also commended Chissano for his "major contribution outside his country's borders," which included providing "a powerful voice for Africa on the international stage."