Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 July 2016
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.”
Most 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.
The 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?
The 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.”
So 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.
And 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?