Former Cape Verde President Pedro Verona Pires has been awarded this year’s $5m (£3.2m) Mo Ibrahim prize for good governance in Africa.
The prize committee said Mr Pires, who stepped down in August, had helped make the archipelago off the West African coast a “model of democracy, stability and increased prosperity”.
The prize is supposed to be awarded each year to a democratically elected leader who has voluntarily left office.
There has been no winner for two years. The committee said there had been no suitable candidate.
The $5m award, given over 10 years followed by $200,000 a year for life, is the world’s most valuable individual prize. The previous winners are Botswana’s President Festus Mogae and Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano.
In case you are wondering why African incumbents – including Cameroon’s Paul Biya and Senegal’s Wade – do not find the world’s most valuable individual prize worth their time check out an earlier post in which I attempted to calculate the opportunity cost of accepting the award. Notice that my calculation did not factor in the probability of not winning the prize even after stepping down or that of winding up at the Hague or dead.
The prize is a nice carrot and is part of a larger and highly commendable, I should add, attempt at an ideational change on what it means to be a good president. But it almost naively assumes that the only reason autocrats stay in power beyond their “use by” date is for the money.
If that were the case Gbagbo and Gaddafi would surely have done the right thing.
If I were on the committee I would ask Mo to consider channeling some of the money from years without winners to countries with promise – to help facilitate institutional reforms – all in an attempt to make the environment safe for the incumbent and his cronies in case he chooses to step down.
On March 10th, 2011 the African Union (AU) declared Alassane Ouattara as the legitimately elected president of Ivory Coast. Outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo (who insists he won the poll) responded by ordering his soldiers to kill supporters of Mr. Ouattara.
Now the ball is back in the AU’s court. So far the regional body appears to be at sixes and sevens, unsure of how to react. Lacking a regional hegemonic benefactor, the AU has over the years been mostly bark and no bite. Its leadership reflects the confusion and ineptitude that characterize the Continental body. One of its recent leaders is Muamar Gaddafi. Presently it is led by Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, dictator of Equatorial Guinea and this idiot’s guy’s dad.
Mr. Gbagbo has refused to step down or be part of a unity government led by Mr. Ouattara, as demanded by the AU. Increasingly isolated, he has nationalized the cocoa industry in a desperate attempt to get some cash to pay his loyalists. Cote d’Ivoire produces 40% of the world’s cocoa. He is also reported to be receiving help from Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Angola’s Jose Edwardo do Santos.
In an ideal world South Africa or Nigeria or even Ethiopia would have provided leadership and force whenever needed to ensure that AU resolutions are enforced. But Pretoria has a president in Zuma who shows no interest in foreign policy; his handling of the Zimbabwe crisis speaks volumes. Abuja is a mess, period and Ethiopia has first to eradicate famine before it can venture anywhere beyond Somalia.
Without an enforcement mechanism and a regional hegemonic benefactor, the AU’s resolutions will continue to be nothing but hot air.
Omar Bashir faces a tough few days ahead. More than 99% of Southern Sudanese voted for secession in the just concluded referendum, effectively guaranteeing the split of Africa’s biggest country in July of this year. Many in the North blame Bashir for losing the South. The waves of protests in the Middle East following the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia is adding fuel to the flames. The Independent reports:
Violent clashes broke out at two Khartoum universities yesterday as heavily armed police surrounded stone throwing students. Social media groups similar to those used elsewhere in the Arab world to mobilise protesters have started to mushroom in northern cities.
One of them calling itself “Youth for Change” has attracted 15,000 members to its Facebook page. “The people of Sudan will not remain silent anymore,” it says. “It is about time we demand our rights and take what’s ours in a peaceful demonstration that will not involve any acts of sabotage.”
Security forces arrested Hussein Khogali, the editor of al-Watan newspaper, whom they accuse of orchestrating the online protests.
And in other news, the African Union summit opened on Sunday with the Ivory Coast top of the agenda. The Continental club of autocrats body agreed to set up a five member panel to continue negotiations with Laurent Gbagbo, the Ivorian president who lost an election but refuses to step down. Also on the AU’s agenda is Kenya’s misguided attempts at battling the ICC through threats of en masse pullouts from the Rome treaty by African countries.
The failure to force Gbagbo out of power and the ill-fated fights with the ICC are additions to the litany of failures that make most on the Continent question the relevance of the AU. In my opinion regional bodies are only as strong as their dominant members. With South Africa continuing to be disinterested in regional matters and Nigeria being Nigeria the AU is guaranteed to remain rudderless into the foreseeable future.
After killing their president earlier this year, the military strongmen in Guinea Bissau seem bent on eliminating his surviving allies. The BBC reports that the tiny West African nation’s army killed a number of suspected coup plotters, including Baciro Dabo, a minister and former close ally of the late president Vieira. Mr. Dabo had expressed interest in running for president in elections that are due later this month. The elections will now more than likely not take place.
The latest episode of violence just illustrates how much out of touch the army is with reality. The impoverished West African nation of 1.5 million has seen slow recovery from a disastrous civil war in the late 1990s. With a per capita GDP of $ 213 ($ 600, PPP) it still has a long way to go. It is heavily dependent on farming and fishing, with cashews being the major crop. Political instability and insecurity are only going to make matters worse. And perhaps the saddest part of all this is that no one beyond the Guinean borders cares. ECOWAS will not help, the UN has its gaze fixed on the many conflicts in Central Africa and the AU, under the leadership of Muamar Gaddafi, would rather not be bothered – beyond issuing statements.
The BBC is reporting that the army in Madagascar seems to have heeded the opposition leader’s calls to arrest president Marc Ravalomanana. The former mayor of Antananrivo, Andry Rajoelina, has since the end of January declared his opposition to the presidency of Mr. Ravalomanana and vowed to oust him before the latter’s second term expires in 2011. The former mayor accuses the president of misspending tax payers’ money. It looks like Mr. Ravalomanana’s days as president are numbered, especially after the self-declared head of the army, one colonel Andre Ndriarijaona, declared his support for the former mayor.
The events in Madagascar are yet another remainder that may be we should not take it for granted that democracy is the best form of government – especially for young, impoverished nations like Madagascar. Since the Rajoelina-led protests began in late January the capital Antananarivo has seen looting and running battles between police and protesters. A few dozen people have died. This has obviously impacted the economy negatively. And for a country where 70% of the people live on less than $ 2 a day that is very bad news.
If this coup succeeds it will be the fourth successful coup on the Continent in the last one year. The other three have been in Mauritania, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. It’s like we are reliving the late 60s or early 90s all over again. When will people realise that this moving around in circles will not take the Continent, and its people, anywhere?
Meanwhile, the African Union on Monday issued a statement supporting the incumbent Mr. Ravalomanana, without any mention of the president’s ineffectual leadership or the grievances of the opposition. For the AU, the incumbent is always right. No surprises there. The head of the AU, if you may recall, is one Muamar Gaddafi. It is essentially a club of kleptocratic little men who parade as gods.