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Will West Africa get second Mo Ibrahim prize in 2017


Will Mahama or Boni clinch it for the region?

yayi boni

By John Eche


Political watchers have already begun to place bets that either of former President John Mahama of Ghana and his counterpart from the Republic of Benin, Yayi Boni, may be in contention for the Mo Ibrahim Prize for African Governance in 2017′

Should this scenario materialise, it will be the second win for West Africa, whose previous lone winner, former President Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires, clinched the most coveted award after having served most successfully as the third President of Cape Verde from 22 March 2001 – 9 September 2011.

Mahama, who succeeded his boss, former President John Atta Mills, following the latter’s death in office, subsequently contested and won to serve as President of Ghana from  to -2012-2016. His subsequent attempt to return for a second term in office at the close of last year was however unsuccessful as voters preferred his rival, incumbent President, Nana Akufo-Addo.

As for Yayi Boni, the former development banker served two successful terms in office as President of the French-speaking Republic of Benin.

The previous West African winner, Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires, who was born on 29 April 1934 was before becoming President, Prime Minister from 1975 to 1991.

He was educated at Liceu Gil Eanes and Escola Jorge Barbosa in Mindelo and the University of Lisbon in Portugal . A leader in the struggle for independence during the Portuguese Colonial War, he fled to Conakry in 1962, then Ghana and afterwards headed to Algeria. He also trained in Cuba, the Soviet Union and Guinea-Bissau.

Before independence on October 13, 1974, he returned to Praia, Cape Verde, and three days after the country became independent, he became the first prime minister of the country when the nation was a one-party state. After the ruling African Party for the Independence of Cape Verde (PAICV) decided to institute multiparty democracy in February 1990, Pires replaced President Aristides Pereira as General Secretary of PAICV in August 1990. The PAICV lost the multiparty parliamentary and presidential elections held in early 1991 and was left in opposition.

Pires was the PAICV candidate in the February 2001 presidential election, defeating former Prime Minister Carlos Veiga of the Movement for Democracy (MpD) in the second round by just 12 votes. Pires took office on March 22; the MpD boycotted his inauguration, saying that the election was marred by a “non-transparent process”. As President, Pires appointed Neves as Prime Minister.

He ran for a second term in the presidential election held on 12 February 2006 and again prevailed over Veiga, this time winning in the first round by a 51%-49% margin.

In May 2008, he said that he favored a cautious, long-term approach to the formation of a United States of Africa, preferring that regional integration precede a continent-wide union.

Pires was awarded the 2011 Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. The prize was awarded in recognition of Pires role in making Cape Verde a “model of democracy, stability and increased prosperity”. The prize includes a monetary component of $5m.

Notably, all of the other past prize winners hail from Southern Africa. They range from 2007 Honorary winner, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela of South Africa and 2007 prize winner, Joaquim Alberto Chissano of Mozambique. The otheras are 2008 winner, Festus Gontebanye Mogae of Botswana and his fellow 2014 laureate, Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia.

A win for West Africa is also expected to further lift the regional grouping, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is regarded as a foremost regional economic centre in the continent, and is made up of fifteen member countries that are located in the Western African region.These countries have both cultural and geopolitical ties and share common economic interests. The region of West Africa is located west of north-south axis lying close to 10° east longitude. The Atlantic Ocean forms the western as well as the southern borders of the West African region. The northern border is the Sahara Desert, with the Ranishanu Bend generally considered the northernmost part of the region. The eastern border lies between the Benue Trough, and a line running from Mount Cameroon to Lake Chad.

Significantly also, the region was able to successfully mobilise and push out the maverick dictator, Yahyah Jammeh of the Gambia from office.

Another possible West African contender for the award from the same region would have been incumbent ECOWAS Chairperson, adam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf but the fact of her exit elections being scheduled for October 10, may make it practically impossible for the judges to seriously scrutinise her candidacy. Our analysts therefore also suggest that she may be the candidate to beat in 2018, giving the sub-region another chance at winning once again.


Yayi Boni, former President of Benin Republic

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