“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.” – Mo Ibrahim

Earlier today, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation announced Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia, as the recipient of the 2017 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. Sirleaf became the first female President of Liberia and Africa’s first elected female Head of State in 2006.

Once elected, she became a symbol of hope and a pillar of strength for Liberia, a country she inherited in ruins, an aftermath of a 14-year civil war. But the then 67-year-old committed to fighting corruption and rebuilding the country’s fragile economy. Under her leadership, Liberia overcame huge challenges – debt relief, Ebola, corruption. She also fostered and promoted foreign relations.

Sirleaf is the fifth winner of the Mo Ibrahim prize since its launch in 2006. According to the published citation of the prize committee of the foundation, during her years in office, Sirleaf laid the foundations on which Liberia can now build. “In the process, she restored Liberians’ dignity and pride in their country. Since 2006, Liberia is the only country, out of 54, to improve in every category and subcategory of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance”, the citation reads.

Mo Ibrahim, founder and Chair of the foundation expressed his pleasure with the committee’s decision saying, “I’m delighted that the Prize Committee has decided to make Ellen Johnson Sirleaf an Ibrahim Prize Laureate. In very difficult circumstances, she helped guide her nation towards a peaceful and democratic future, paving the way for her successor to follow.”

Over the years, Sirleaf has gained global recognition and received quite a number of international awards, including the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, and 2012 Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development. In 2016, she ranked 83rd on Forbes 100 most powerful women in the world. And last year, she was mentioned as one of the world’s most powerful women in politics by CNN.

The Ibrahim Prize is a $5 million award paid over 10 years and $200,000 annually for life thereafter. The prize went unawarded for six years, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 because the committee did not find a leader who met the criteria for the prize.

Before Sirleaf, the last winner of the prize was Hifikepunye Pohamba, former president of Namibia. He was selected in 2014 for his role in forging national cohesion and reconciliation at a key stage of Namibia’s democracy consolidation and social and economic development.

Other leaders awarded the prize are Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique (2007), Nelson Mandela of South Africa (honorary award 2007), Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008), and Pedro Pires of Cape Verde (2011).

“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 foundation states.

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