The London-based Mo Ibrahim Foundation has announced former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the winner of the 2017 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.
Established in 2007 by Ibrahim, the Sudanese-British billionaire, the award recognizes a democratically elected African head of state who has left office within the last three years, served his/her mandated term, and demonstrated leadership in surmounting development challenges, improving the livelihoods and welfare of a country's citizens, and consolidating a foundation for sustainable development. Recipients of the prize, which was last awarded in 2014, receive $5 million over ten years and $200,000 annually thereafter. The foundation also considers additional grants of $200,000 a year for up to ten years in support of the prize laureate's public-interest projects.
The 2017 prize committee's citation praises Johnson Sirleaf, who served as president of Liberia from 2006 to 2017, for her leadership in the face of unprecedented challenges following years of devastating civil war. Since 2006, Liberia has been the only country among the fifty-four evaluated in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance to show improvement in every category, including safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, and human development.
"Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focused on building a nation and its democratic institutions," said prize committee chair Salim Ahmed Salim. "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."
"I'm delighted that the prize committee has decided to make Ellen Johnson Sirleaf an Ibrahim Prize laureate," said Ibrahim. "In very difficult circumstances, she helped guide her nation towards a peaceful and democratic future, paving the way for her successor to follow. 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."