Chissano scoops $5m for stepping down, K’la unimpressed
PETER NYANZI & EMMANUEL GYEZAHO
MR Joachim Chissano, the former President of Mozambique, who stepped down gracefully, has been announced winner of the inaugural Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, the largest individual award in the world.
The prize, a perfect birthday gift for Mr Chissano who turned 58 yesterday, comprises $5 million (about Shs8.5 billion) over 10 years and $200,000 (about Shs350 million) annually for life thereafter.
Additionally, Mr Chissano will get up to $200,000 a year for 10 years towards his public interest activities and good causes, according a press release issued by the Mo Foundation in London yesterday.
Announcing the Laureate in London yesterday, Mr Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary general and the chair of the Prize Committee, said: "Mr Chissano's achievements in bringing peace, reconciliation, stable democracy and economic progress to his country greatly impressed the committee. So, too, did his decision to step down without seeking the third term the constitution allowed."
He also commended him for providing "a powerful voice for Africa on the international stage."
Mr Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese-born telecommunications entrepreneur, set up the prize as a way of encouraging good governance on a continent wrecked by corruption, human rights violations and authoritarian rule.
"The Prize celebrates more than just good governance. It celebrates leadership - the ability to formulate a vision and to convince others of that vision; and the skill of giving courage to society to accept difficult changes in order to make possible a longer term aspiration for a better, fairer future," Mr Annan said.
Mr Chissano, who is the special envoy of the United Nations Secretary General to Northern Uganda, was in the country at the weekend on a mission to brief President Museveni on the progress of the South Sudan mediated peace talks between the Government and the Lord's Resistance Army.
On Monday, Mr Chissano and South Sudan Vice President and chief mediator Riek Machar met LRA leader Joseph Kony at Ri-Kwangba. They are in Ri-Kwangba largely to resolve a deadlock over the way the talks are being managed.
Responding to Mr Chissano's prize, President Museveni's press Secretary, Mr Tamale Mirundi, said yesterday the award is motivated by ill will.
"The people behind this award have a misconception about Africa; that you have to offer an inducement for African leaders to step down," he said. "I know President Museveni would never accept this money because the intention is bad and I don't think $5million is a big deal," he said.
Mr Mirundi added that no amount of money would influence "revolutionary leaders [like President Museveni] to step down because revolutionary parties will always select that person they feel is most fit to carry the lubengo [grinding stone]. Certain leaders just need to remain at the top."
But a cross section of opposition leaning opinion leaders applauded the award.
Dr Abed Bwanika, a former presidential candidate said: "Now is the time for us to begin to debate Mr Museveni's exit. We hope this award will encourage him to retire but of course we know $5million is nothing. We need to debate a send off package for him, outside monetary terms. He is a close friend of Mr Chissano so he should take counselling from him."
Mr Chissano was selected from a list of 13 candidates by a panel of six eminent individuals who assessed every sub-Saharan African leader who has peacefully handed over power in the last three years.
A retired Major General, Mr Chissano was president of Mozambique for 19 years. He ascended to power in 1986 after his predecessor Mr Samora Machel's presidential aircraft crashed in South Africa.
Mr Chissano helped reconcile radical and moderate Marxists in the Frelimo party, after the end of the Mozambican civil war, which saw the Renamo rebels become a regular political party. He won the multi-party elections that followed in 1994 and again in 1999, but opted not to run for a third term, even when it was constitutionally permissible.
President Museveni is currently serving his third constitutional term, after successfully orchestrating the deletion of presidential term limits in 2005. In 2011, when his term ends, he will have spent 25 years in power, six years more than Mr Chissano, although it is still not clear that he will retire then.
Commenting on Mr Chissano's prize, Mr Mo Ibrahim, founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, said: "I am absolutely delighted that Mr Chissano has been selected as the first Laureate. As a man who has reconciled a divided nation and built the foundations for a stable, democratic and prosperous future for the country, he is a role-model not just for Africa, but for the rest of the world."
Former presidents Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, Mathieu Kerekou of Benin, Sam Nujoma of Namibia, Albert Rene of Seychelles and Domitien Ndayizeye of Burundi were some of the notable candidates on the list.
Additional reporting by Frank Nyakairu