Former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has become the first woman to win a coveted $5m prize for African leadership.
Sirleaf won the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership on Monday in recognition for her efforts to rebuild her country following two civil wars.
“Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focussed on building a nation and its democratic institutions,” Salim Ahmed Salim, chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s prize committee, said.
“Throughout her two terms in office, she worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of Liberia,” he added.
“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.”
Sirleaf left office last month, handing power over to George Weah, the former Chelsea and PSG footballer turned politician. She served two terms.
The prize was founded by Sudanese telecommunication billionaire Mohammed Ibrahim and the winner receives $5m over 10 years and $200,000 annually for the rest of their lives.
Previous winners include former Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba (2014), former Cape Verde President Pedro Pires (2011), former Bostwana President Festus Mogae (2008), and former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano (2007).
Nelson Mandela became an honorary recipient of the award in 2007.
Candidates for the prize are all former African executive heads of state or government who have left office during the last three calendar years, having been democratically elected and served their constitutionally mandated term.
In some years the award, which was launched in 2006, has not been awarded as no candidate was considered qualified enough.
Sirleaf is a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner and Africa’s first elected woman president.