Namibia’s President Just Won An Award For Leaving Office

Namibia’s outgoing president was awarded the multi-million dollar Ibrahim Prize for 2014 on Monday. The prize committee reviews candidates every year but hasn’t found anyone worthy of winning since 2011.

Namibia’s outgoing president Hifikepunye Pohamba has won the 2014 Ibrahim Prize, a multi-million dollar leadership award for African heads of state who honor democratic rules.

Pohamba in 2013. Kimmo Mantyla / AP

A foundation set up by Mo Ibrahim, a Sudan-born telecoms tycoon turned philanthropist, launched the prize in 2007 to boost democracy in Africa. The winner receives $5 million over a decade, and then receives $200,000 per year for the rest of their life. It is the world’s most valuable prize awarded to an individual, according to the BBC.

The award is open to African heads of state who are not only elected democratically, but who also leave office democratically, either when they lose an election or hit their term limits. The winner must also show that they have served their country well while in office.

Pohamba won the award not only for stepping down when he reached his two-term limit, but also for respecting press freedom, fostering gender equality, and abolishing school fees while in office, the prize committee said.

Children at a creche in Namibia’s capital Windhoek in Nov. 2008. Francois Poolman / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Under Pohamba, a former rebel leader in the country’s fight for independence, Namibia has been peaceful but has remained poor despite its large diamond and uranium reserves, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Pohamba stepped aside for last year’s election, having served two five-year terms as president, and is now due to be succeeded by the president-elect Hage Geingob.

Despite an annual search for candidates, Ibrahim’s foundation has only found four winners since 2007. Ibrahim denied that this fact reflected poorly on African leaders, telling Al Jazeera that “this is the nature of excellence. It is not common.”

Former leaders of Mozambique, Bostwana, and Cape Verde have previously won the prize. Nelson Mandela, the South African freedom fighter and president, was given an honorary award in 2007.

This year is a bonanza one for elections in Africa, with at least 15 countries holding presidential or legislative polls, according to the Brookings Foundation. Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country and biggest economy, is due to hold its presidential election on Mar. 28 after a suddenly announced six-week delay.

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