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Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wins the Ibrahim Prize

by Milicent Atieno
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Former Liberia President Ellen Johnson has bagged the 2017 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership awarded by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. The winner is vetted by an independent Prize Committee who go over the nominees and select the winner.

In their citation, the Prize Committee praised Ellen Johnson for her exceptional and transformative leadership against a backdrop of unprecedented and renewed challenges. Johnson was at the helm of Liberia politics and steered it away from a devastating civil war.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focused on building a nation and its democratic institutions,” said the Chair of the Prize Committee, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim.

Throughout her two terms in office, she worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of Liberia. Such a journey cannot be without some shortcomings and, today, Liberia continues to face many challenges. Nevertheless, during her twelve years in office, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf laid the foundations on which Liberia can now build.”

Ellen Johnson became the President of Liberia on January 16th, 2006 after she won the 2005 national elections. She served for two terms after securing another win in the following national elections held in 2011.

This award makes her the fifth recipient of the Ibrahim Prize, an award that recognized and celebrates the best leadership qualities across the African continent. The Prize seeks to distinguish leaders who use their time in office to drive development agenda for their country, strengthen democracy and human rights and advance sustainable developments.

According to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Liberia is the only African country that has improved in just about every category and sub-category used for the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. Liberia has indeed moved up ten places in the Ibrahim overall ranking since 2006.

Upon hearing that the 2017 Prize Committee had selected Ellen Johnson as the winner, Mo Ibrahim said: “I’m delighted that the Prize Committee has decided to make Ellen Johnson Sirleaf an Ibrahim Prize Laureate. In very difficult circumstances, she helped guide her nation towards a peaceful and democratic future, paving the way for her successor to follow. I am proud to see the first woman Ibrahim Laureate, and I hope Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will continue to inspire women in Africa and beyond.”

Previous winners of the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership are:

2014 Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia
2011 Pedro Pires of Cabo Verde
2008 Festus Mogae of Botswana
2007 Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique
2007 Nelson Mandela (made the inaugural Honorary Laureate


Winners of the Ibrahim Prize get $5 million award paid over ten years, and $200,000 paid annually thereafter. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation will further consider giving an additional $200,000 per year, over a stretch of ten years towards any public interest activities and good caused the laureate wants to be engaged in.

All candidates for the prize must all be former heads of stages in African countries who have left office at least for the last three calendar years. The leaders must have been democratically elected and executed their constitutional mandated to term.

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