Cape Verde's Pires wins African governance award

Mon Oct 10, 2011 2:03pm EDT
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By Ed Cropley

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Former Cape Verde president Pedro Verona Pires won the $5 million Mo Ibrahim award for African leadership Monday for shepherding his tiny Atlantic Ocean island state from autocracy to prosperous democracy.

Organizers of the award, established in 2006 by Sudanese telecoms tycoon Mo Ibrahim to improve the quality of African governments, also praised Pires for his decision this year not to run for office again after the expiry of his second term.

"Throughout his long career, President Pires has been dedicated to the service of his people, including those in the diaspora, while retaining his humility and personal dignity," the award committee said in a statement.

Previous winners of the prize, which can only be awarded to an African head of state who has peacefully left office, include Mozambique's Joaquim Chissano and Botswana's Festus Mogae.

There were no winners in 2009 and 2010 because of a lack of suitable candidates, Organizers said.

Pires was prominent in Cape Verde's struggle for independence from Portugal, and became prime minister in 1975, a position that allowed him to pave the way toward the first democratic elections in 1991.

Cape Verde, which has a population of 500,000, also fared well in the "Ibrahim Index" of African governance released alongside the leadership award.

The five best-ranked countries were Mauritius, Cape Verde, Botswana, Seychelles and South Africa, while the bottom five were Somalia, Chad, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.   Continued...

<p>President of Cape Verde Pedro Pires listens to a question from the media after his meeting with Portugal's counterpart Cavaco Silva in Lisbon's presidential palace of Belem July 21, 2008. REUTERS/Jose Manuel Ribeiro</p>