Liberia’s ex-president Ellen Sirleaf Johnson has been awarded the 2017 Mo Ibrahim prize for Achievement in African Leadership, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation announced on Monday on its website.
Sirleaf is the fifth winner of the prize since it was first awarded in 2007 to Mozambique’s former President Joaquim Chissano.
The Prize Committee praised her for leading Liberia as it recovered from civil war and “working tirelessly on behalf of the people of Liberia.”
She was also praised for her efforts in reconciliation and nation building.
The committee works independently to select the winner.
Committee Chairman Dr Salim Ahmed Salim said: “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.
“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.”
After the prize was announced, Mo Ibrahim, according to the Foundation’s website, praised Sirleaf for guiding Liberia through a difficult period and ensuring peace and democracy.
“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,” he added.
Sirleaf was elected in 2006 and was the first woman elected as head of State in Africa.
She served two terms until 2018, when she handed over to democratically-elected president George Weah, a former international footballer.
She has been praised for efforts to unite the country after civil war and enabling democracy in the country.
However, during her term in office, several government leaders were dogged with accusations of corruption.
The prize was launched in 2006, but it was not awarded in 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 as the committee did not find a leader who met all the criteria for the prize.
Other leaders awarded the prize are presidents Festus Mogae of Botswana, Pedro Pires of Cape Verde and Hifikipunye Pohamba of Namibia.
Nelson Mandela of South Africa was given an honorary award in 2007.
The Ibrahim Prize is a $5 million award paid over 10 years and $200,000 annually for life thereafter.
“The candidates for the Ibrahim 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,” the Mo Ibrahim website indicates.