Namibian President Hifikepinye Pohamba Wins Mo Ibrahim Prize for African Leadership

Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba

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After four unclaimed awards in five years, Mo Ibrami Prize for Achievement in African Leadership prize for 2014 was awarded to the outgoing Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba. Mr Pohamba, a former independence movement freedom fighter who became president of Namibia for two terms, has won  the $5 millions award, for leading and leaving behind  "a well-governed, stable and inclusive democracy with strong media freedom and respect for human rights, " Salim Ahmed Salim, the chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Prize Committee and former Chair of  Organization of African Unity, now African Union,   said while awarding the prize.

Mr Pohamba, 79,  was born in 1935 in Northern Namibia. It is in that region that the Namibian independence and anti-apartheid movement, the South West Africa People's Organization, Swapo, would have its roots. Like many African independence movement leaders, he was educated by missionaries. He and Namibia's first President Sam Nujoma co-founded of Swapo. He later was jailed for political activities and, when released, went to the Soviet Union for his education.

Upon Namibian Indepence, which was won by Swapo over the South African Apartheid government-backed regime, he became  government Minister, before being chosen by Sam Nujoma to succeed him as president in 2004. He was was re-elected in 2009. He will be succeeded by President-elect, Hage Geingob.

Mr Pohamba was named recipient of the 2014 Mo-Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership at a ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya. Mo-Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership was created by  Mo Ibrahim, a British-Sudanese billionniares, who became rich from his communication investments in Africa. The prize was created to promote good governance and  encourage African leaders, notorious for holding onto power,  to leave power peacefully.

Created in 2007, the annual prize was only awarded to only three leaders, so far, given that few African presidents have met the criterias. The leaders who have won are:  Joaquim Chissano in 2007, Mozambique's former president, President Festus Mogae of Botswana in 2008, and President Pedro Pires of Cape Verde  in 2011. President Nelson Mandela of South Africa  is the honorary laureate.

Winners of the prize are selected by an independent committee of  seven eminent individuals.

During the decade of his presidential mandate, he demonstrated sound and wise leadership. Notably, he maintained his humility throughout his presidency. His commitment to good governance, human rights and freedom of the Press are notable,” Salim said.

Mr Pohama was also cited for many democratic achievements including his respect and tolerance for his political rivals,  promoting gender equality, investments in health and education, with  almost 100 per cent literacy rates,  cutting down HIV rates, and enrolling over 80 per cent of Namibians living with HIV on life-saving medicines.

The $5m prize is spread over 10 years and is followed by $200,000 a year for life.