Will president Koroma of Sierra Leone win the $5 million Mo Ibrahim Award?

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 July 2016

President Koroma and president Buhari of Nigeria

Last month, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation announced that no African leader has been good enough to win the 2015 mouth watering $5 million Mo Ibrahim Award. (Photo: Koroma – right, with Nigeria’s president Buhari – left).

2015 is the fifth year in the last ten years since the inauguration of the Award, that no leader has won the Prize.

While this may not come as a surprise for most Africans whose leaders are failing to address the perpetual inter-generational cycle of poverty and deprivation that is holding back so much of Africa’s potential, in Sierra Leone supporters of president Koroma are hoping for their controversial president to receive the Mo Ibrahim award.

Koroma leaves office in 2018. But after nine years in office, has he done enough to merit this award? What has he done that has positively transformed governance and democracy in Sierra Leone?

Is president Koroma the kind of leader that most Africans would rally behind if needed, and look up to for leadership and clear direction? President Koroma is far from being another Nelson Mandela.

And, judging by the criteria laid down by the Ibrahim Foundation and the values it is seeking to promote, it is difficult to see how Koroma can win the Ibrahim Prize after 2018, given his miserable performance in promoting good governance, tackling corruption, addressing political violence, promoting law and order, improving the well-being of his people, and building an inclusive society.

Instead, according to his critics he is likely to be remembered as one of the most backward thinking, manipulative and divisive leader ever to rule Sierra Leone.

‘Society needs intelligent and mature leaders. Acquiring such skills is a lifelong process. Maturity makes great leaders,’ argues Theo Veldsman of the University of Johannesburg.

Last week, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation announced there is no winner yet again, that is worthy of the award.  According to the Mo ibrahim Foundation, the Ibrahim Prize celebrates excellence in African leadership.

It says that “the Ibrahim Prize has the potential to change perceptions of African leadership by showcasing exceptional role models from the continent. The significance of the Prize lies not only with its winners, but also with the conversation around leadership that it generates.”

political violence - MKMMost importantly, the Award “recognises and celebrates African executive leaders who, under challenging circumstances, have developed their countries and strengthened democracy and human rights for the shared benefit of their people, paving the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity.” Is president Koroma living up to this expectation?

The Award “highlights exceptional role models for the continent; ensures that the African continent continues to benefit from the experience and wisdom of exceptional leaders once they have left national office, by enabling them to continue in other public roles on the continent; is an award and a standard for excellence in leadership in Africa, and not a ‘first prize’, there is not necessarily a Laureate every year.”

But how does the Ibrahim Foundation defines leadership? It says leadership is “the ability to make choices, assess and take risks, define and order priorities”.

Since coming to power in 2007, president Koroma has failed woefully to prioritise the needs of the people. More than 4,000 people have died of the Ebola virus since 2014, due to the government’s failure to prioritise healthcare.

salone poverty2The economy is now almost bankrupt, with Koroma’s over-reliance on foreign aid and public debt, after failing to restructure the economy and end the country’s dependency on mining.

He has failed to take the political risks that come with tackling high level corruption that is at the heart of the country’s under-development. (Photo: Abject poverty is destroying lives and communities in Sierra Leone). 

As the people of Kailahun and Port Loko go to the polls this weekend amid serious politically motivated violence and intimidation, it is clear that Koroma has failed to guarantee and protect the universal freedom and right of the people to associate and make personal choices.

He has failed to control political violence and the breakdown of the rule of law in the country, choosing political expediency and party political interests over justice.

So what are the criteria for winning this award, which carries enormous personal benefits, apart from the global acclamation of good leadership, a whopping financial reward of receiving either $5 million USD over ten years, or $200,000 USD per year for life?

According to the Ibrahim Foundation, he or she must be a former African executive head of state or government, which Koroma will become in 2018. They should have left office in the last three years – served his/her constitutionally mandated term.

President Koroma’s term of office is coming to an end. But will he change the country’s Constitution to extend his stay in office, as is currently being planned by a faction within the ruling APC?

President koroma - Feb 2013The Ibrahim Foundation also says that he or she should have been democratically elected to qualify for the Prize.

Should political violence get worse on the eve of the general and presidential elections in 2018, will president Koroma (Photo) declare a ‘convenient state of emergency’ that will bring in the military and effectively keep him in power as the commander of the army?

‘He or she should have demonstrated exceptional leadership in running the country.’ So far, president Koroma has proven to be unfit to govern, says critics. He is seriously lacking leadership skills and qualities.

His cabinet ministers and heads of departments are more concerned about personal enrichment through corruption and abuse of office, rather than the effective delivery of public services.

A good leader will take full responsibility for the performance of his ministers and hold them to account. Koroma has failed to meet this most basic leadership criterion.

His unilateral decision to sack the country’s vice president – in a communist dictatorship process, without seeking parliamentary consensus and approval as enshrined in the Constitution, flies against justice and the democratic will of the people.

Since its establishment in 2006, the following well deserving African leaders have won the Prize. In 2007 president Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique received the award. In 2008, president Festus Mogae of Botswana won the prize; and in 2011, president Pedro Pires of Cabo Verde picked up the award. The evidence of their good leadership is there to see.

Commenting on the fact that Africa has failed to produce leaders that are worthy of winning the Prize in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2016, Mo Ibrahim, Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation said that he “wants the Prize to shine a spotlight on outstanding leadership to provide role models right across society, as well as supporting Laureates to continue to serve the continent by sharing their wisdom and experience.”

Pires of cape verdeSo why did the Mo Ibrahim Foundation award president Pedro Pires of Cape Verde (Photo) in 2011? This is what they said:

“The Prize Committee has been greatly impressed by President Pedro Pires’ vision in transforming Cabo Verde into a model of democracy, stability and increased prosperity.

Under his ten years as President, the nation became only the second African country to graduate from the United Nation’s Least Developed category and has won international recognition for its record on human rights and good governance.

The result is that Cabo Verde is now seen as an African success story, economically, socially and politically.

Throughout his long career President Pires has been dedicated to the service of his people, including those in the diaspora, while retaining his humility and personal integrity.”

Pedro de Verona Rodrigues Pires served as Head of State of Cabo Verde from 2001 to 2010. He was appointed Prime Minister by the Parliament of the newly formed Republic of Cabo Verde in 1975, and began pushing for democratic reform in the 1980s. He held this post until 1991, when he lost the first multiparty election. He remained active in his party until he was elected President in 2001.

President Pires was awarded the 2011 Ibrahim Prize for his work in transforming Cabo Verde into an African success story, recognised for good governance, human rights, prosperity and social development. His democratic credentials were enhanced by his decision not to alter the constitution so he could run for a third term in office despite popular demand. He is also highly regarded for his success in international relations and engaging Cabo Verde in the African, and wider international community.

President Pohamba of Namibia - 2014 winnerAnd what was their justification for awarding president Pohamba of Namibia in 2014 (Photo)?

“During the decade of Hifikepunye Pohamba’s Presidency, Namibia’s reputation has been cemented as a well-governed, stable and inclusive democracy with strong media freedom and respect for human rights. At a time of global uncertainty, this sustained progress to a unified and cohesive nation, at such an important moment in Namibia’s transition, reinforced the conviction of the Prize Committee that President Pohamba is a worthy winner of the 2014 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.”

Hifikipunye Lucas Pohamba served as Head of State of Namibia from 2005 to 2015. He won the 2004 election overwhelmingly as the candidate of SWAPO, the ruling party, and he was re-elected in the 2009 election.

President Pohamba was awarded the fourth Ibrahim Prize for his role in maintaining and consolidating his country’s stability and prosperity and for forging national cohesion and reconciliation at a key stage of Namibia’s consolidation of democracy and social and economic development.

The Prize also recognises his contribution in cementing Namibia’s reputation as a well-governed, stable and inclusive democracy with strong media freedom and respect for human rights.

Will president Koroma win the Mo Ibrahim Africa Leadership Award after leaving office in 2018, or is the bar set by Mo Ibrahim too high for Sierra Leone’s president?


  1. Foday Madama,

    I am really surprised at you for saying that:

    “But what we must also do, is to look at our country beyond party, regional and tribal lines and support anything that brings us international recognition.”

    Did you remember that on July 9, 2016 you made the following statement here on The Sierra Leone Telegraph?

    “Either you are a ‘foreigner’ infiltrating our national issues, or you are a well known figure in our country that has helped in one way or the other to sink our nation.”

    Are you saying that the adjective foreign is different from international, which is also an adjective?

    Please let me know your thought on this, and stop shooting yourself in the foot. Amen.

  2. Sierra Leoneans, we don’t even respect ourselves not to talk of respecting our head of state.

    You might be right Amjata with your opening statement: “It is insulting to many of your readers to even pose such a question. What credentials does EBK possess to even put his name for such a prize?”

    Rightly so, because most people that read this newspaper (The Sierra Leona telegraph) are opposed to the present administration of APC – this is good for our country and good for democracy.

    We should have the freedom to support or criticise, belong or associate with any political party. But what we must also do, is to look at our country beyond party, regional and tribal lines and support anything that brings us international recognition.

  3. It is insulting to many of your readers to even pose such a question. What credentials does EBK possess to even put his name for such a prize? Using undemocratic and thuggish methods to remove a democratically elected VP and installing a thief in his place? Or recycling drug dealers, rapists, thieves, etc, into his cabinet?

    What you have in Sierra Leone is a cabal of corrupt officials presided over by the chief himself. The Mo Prize is for decent African leaders (a very rare species indeed) and not for undemocratic and corrupt leaders like we currently have in Sierra Leone.

    It will be a gross injustice to the people of Sierra Leone, if such an honorable prize were to be given to such dishonorable person.

  4. Foday Madama,

    On July 9, 2016, I asked readers of The Sierra Leone Telegraph to:

    “See ‘Wikipedia’ to ascertain the veracity of this information on each country listed above.”


    Have you done that?

    If no, please go ahead and do that. And verify the online information for yourself. You will be surprised to see that what I wrote was the TRUTH and not a ‘small time’ lie.

    By the way, I have no reason to lie about anything, especially with regards to the development, progress and prosperity of my homeland, Sierra Leone. I am a man of God who is interested only in the TRUTH.

    In addition, what I would like you to do from now on is STOP looking at and posting HDI indices for the year 2013, published in July 2014 and 2015.

    For your information, I was a NUCSU cabinet Minister, School Teacher and Consultant of an International organization in Sierra Leone. I have been to all 12 Districts of the country on a project assessment and evaluation plan. I can speak 9 languages, including English and French.

    When you say that:

    “Either you are a foreigner infiltrating our national issues, or you are a well known figure in our country that has helped in one way or the other to sink our nation.”

    Which ‘national issues’ are interesting that should warrant anyone to infiltrate Sierra Leone? Let me know.

    It makes me wonder how a localized buffoonery and small minded you are to think so low that way. Funny indeed. That said, are you now accepting and acknowledging the very fact that Sierra Leone is sinking? What a shame on your prejudice and bigotry.

    Mustache is American English; and Moustache is British. They both mean the same hair growing on the human upper lip. You feel me now? I hope so.

    Lastly, the name “Madama” was originally from Niger and means a border settlement on the northeast frontier of that country. I am not interested in name calling, but just for you to know where you are coming from. Amen.

  5. Mustache Moustache,

    I copied this for you from the United Nation website, because you are lying to us because Guinea and Bukina Faso are below sierra Leone. with time we will climb up the chart.

    145 Kenya 0.548 61.6 11.0 6.3 b 2,762 9
    145 Nepal 0.548 69.6 12.4 3.3 e 2,311 16
    147 Pakistan 0.538 66.2 7.8 4.7 4,866 –14
    148 Myanmar 0.536 65.9 8.6 4.1 e 4,608 k –12
    149 Angola 0.532 52.3 11.4 4.7 y 6,822 –30
    150 Swaziland 0.531 49.0 11.3 7.1 b 5,542 –25
    151 Tanzania (United Republic of) 0.521 65.0 9.2 5.1 e 2,411 8
    152 Nigeria 0.514 52.8 9.0 l 5.9 y 5,341 –24
    153 Cameroon 0.512 55.5 10.4 6.0 e 2,803 –1
    154 Madagascar 0.510 65.1 10.3 6.0 q 1,328 24
    155 Zimbabwe 0.509 57.5 10.9 7.3 e 1,615 13
    156 Mauritania 0.506 63.1 8.5 3.8 e 3,560 –14
    156 Solomon Islands 0.506 67.9 9.2 5.0 f 1,540 16
    158 Papua New Guinea 0.505 62.6 9.9 r 4.0 e 2,463 –1
    159 Comoros 0.503 63.3 11.5 4.6 y 1,456 16
    160 Yemen 0.498 63.8 9.2 2.6 e 3,519 –17
    161 Lesotho 0.497 49.8 11.1 5.9 z 3,306 –16
    162 Togo 0.484 59.7 12.2 4.5 y 1,228 17
    163 Haiti 0.483 62.8 8.7 r 4.9 y 1,669 4
    163 Rwanda 0.483 64.2 10.3 3.7 1,458 11
    163 Uganda 0.483 58.5 9.8 5.4 e 1,613 6
    166 Benin 0.480 59.6 11.1 3.3 e 1,767 0
    167 Sudan 0.479 63.5 7.0 3.1 b 3,809 –27
    168 Djibouti 0.470 62.0 6.4 3.8 q 3,276 k –22
    169 South Sudan 0.467 55.7 7.6 r 5.4 2,332 –9
    170 Senegal 0.466 66.5 7.9 2.5 2,188 –8
    171 Afghanistan 0.465 60.4 9.3 3.2 e 1,885 –7
    172 Côte d’Ivoire 0.462 51.5 8.9 4.3 b 3,171 –24
    173 Malawi 0.445 62.8 10.8 4.3 e 747 13
    174 Ethiopia 0.442 64.1 8.5 2.4 1,428 2
    175 Gambia 0.441 60.2 8.8 2.8 e 1,507 –2
    176 Congo (Democratic Republic of the) 0.433 58.7 9.8 6.0 680 11
    177 Liberia 0.430 60.9 9.5 l 4.1 e 805 7
    178 Guinea-Bissau 0.420 55.2 9.0 2.8 r 1,362 –1
    179 Mali 0.419 58.0 8.4 2.0 1,583 –8
    180 Mozambique 0.416 55.1 9.3 3.2 y 1,123 1
    181 Sierra Leone 0.413 50.9 8.6 l 3.1 e 1,780 –16
    182 Guinea 0.411 58.8 8.7 2.4 y 1,096 0
    183 Burkina Faso 0.402 58.7 7.8 1.4 y 1,591 –13
    184 Burundi 0.400 56.7 10.1 2.7 e 758 1
    185 Chad 0.392 51.6 7.4 1.9 2,085 –22
    Human Development
    Index (HDI)

  6. Its really interesting to see how some people talk about corruption extensively in a manner trying to bring not only a government and leader that has put the country in a better position, but to even categorize the whole country as a failed state.

    Mustache Moustache,
    I mentioned in one of my comment in this medium that Ernest Koroma is not as corrupt as some people think.
    You asked me to respond to your question in regard to certain amount of Ebola funds withdrawn from the Ebola account without trace. But unfortunately, I refused to answer your question for one reason.

    I have never heard the name Mustache Moustache used in Sierra Leone. Charity begins at home. If we are talking to people and hiding our identities, that in itself is corruption.

    Either you are a foreigner infiltrating our national issues, or you are a well known figure in our country that has helped in one way or the other to sink our nation. Otherwise, why call yourself Mustache Moustache?

    • I find it rather disingenuous, if not naive, for Mr Madama to lazily assume that writing under a pen name makes the writer a foreign infiltrator. There are all sorts of reasons why individuals may prefer to keep their identity private. Similarly, there could very well be a variety of good reasons why others prefer to make their identity public.

      In the free world, there is something called choice. But the exercise of that choice to do one thing or the other within the confines of the law, should not make you any more or less of a national.

      We all have a stake in the future of Sierra Leone, and should therefore feel free to say our minds and discuss relevant issues, whether we stand on a mountain top or under our beds. As long as we don’t break the law of the land.

  7. There is no way that President Ernest Koroma will win the Mo Ibrahim award. He is NOT even qualified to contest it. Like I said on July 1, 2016 on The Sierra Leone Telegraph, under the headline “Times are bleak in Sierra Leone,” President Ernest Koroma:

    “is acting unconscionably and very recklessly as the weakest Commander-In-Chief, ever, of the 21st century.”

    He is NOT upholding the credence of the rule of Law in the country. And he is guilty of violating the tenets of the constitution by unilaterally sacking his VP without parliamentary approval. That is pride of the devil. What a stupid and absurd action of his. Shame on him!

    On the Human Development Index (HDI), please take a look at the following classifications for seven of our neighboring countries, including Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana in a reverse order.

    1. Ghana- medium 140th

    2. Nigeria- low 152nd

    3. Senegal- low 163rd

    4. Ivory Coast- low 172nd

    5. Liberia- low 177th

    6. Guinea- low 179th

    7. Sierra Leone- low 181st

    See Wikipedia to ascertain the veracity of this information on each country listed above.

    Oh ya! Sierra Leone still remains at the bottom of the bottom.

    Where is the ‘Agenda For Prosperity’ launched by LYING President “Dr.” Ernest Koroma since July 12, 2013?

    Shame on him again!

    Two thirds or 67% of the adult population of Sierra Leone are illiterates. Majority of those who claim to read and write are semi-literate. They too need some additional academe to perform excellently and incorruptibly in this 21st century.

    The literacy rates of Liberia and Guinea are estimated at 61% and 41%, respectively.

    See also Wikipedia to confirm this piece of information.

  8. President Koroma is far from winning the Ibrahim Mo Prize. All the criteria set for this is not in his favor. he is not acting in concert with the rules of the game. If there is a prize for the worst leader in Africa may be he will be fully qualified for that. It is ridiculous for people to start thinking about President Koroma in that direction.

  9. President Koroma will not be even nominated, let alone speak about winning the award. If they are to select 50 presidents for this award, he will not be among the nominees.

    Sierra Leone is going back to the dark days of President Siaka Stevens. All the symptoms during his reigns are being manifested on daily basis during this same APC Government such as economic hardship, bankruptcy, corruption, political violence, tribalism, regionalism, ‘districtalism’, favouristism, human rights abuses, widening of the gap between the Have and Have-not, social disorder, increase in national debts, party development rather than national development, impartiality, violation of the rule of law, abject poverty, silencing of the opposition, meddling in the affairs of the opposition party and setting them against each other.

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