Ibrahim explains Pohamba’s N$58m prize

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WINDHOEK – Sudanese-British mobile communications entrepreneur and billionaire, Dr Mohamed Ibrahim has cited free primary education and tolerance as some of the factors his foundation considered in awarding President Hifikepunye Pohamba a leadership prize that comes with a massive N$58 million.

With only 18 days left before he vacates State House, Pohamba received a perfect send-off in the form of the 2014 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.

The Ibrahim Prize is a US$5 million (N$58 million) award paid over 10 years and US$200 000 (N$2.3 million) annually for life thereafter.

The announcement of Pohamba’s award – in front of the diplomatic community and civil society representatives – was made at a press conference in Nairobi, Kenya, yesterday.

Speaking to Doha-based Al Jazeera television network from Nairobi, yesterday shortly after the announcement, Ibrahim said Pohamba has been exemplary during his 10-year tenure as president of Namibia.

“I think he gave us a wonderful example of a leader who led democratically and who took his country forward and improved education.
“Education is now free for children and he paid attention to social cohesion. Regular consultation with opposition and other people has helped move the country forward,” said the founder of Celtel mobile communication company.

“This is a wonderful achievement of a democratic president who came in with humility, did his job and leave on time.”

Pohamba’s term as president ends on March 21. President-elect Dr Hage Geingob will take over as the Head of State for the next five years – with an option to stand for a second and last term.

Since the award’s inception in 2006, only Festus Mogae [Botswana], Joaquim Chissano [Mozambique] and Cape Verde’s Pedro Pires have won it prior to Pohamba’s crowning yesterday.

When Al Jazeera yesterday asked Ibrahim whether the fact that only four leaders won the award in eight years was not indicative of poor leadership in Africa, the London-based tycoon disagreed.

“The media is focussing on a few bad apples in Africa. Today [yesterday] the audience was asked if they ever heard of Festus Mogae or Pires and only about four people knew who these men were.

“The media must provide a balanced coverage of Africa. My friends in the media say they are mostly interested in stories of who stole millions of dollars in Africa.

“The fact that only four Africans leaders won the award so far is mostly due to the fact that we refused to lower our standards. How many European leaders would have won this award in the past eight years?” asked the former employee of British Telecom.

Pohamba became an instant multi-millionaire yesterday after the announcement that many Namibians believe is a well-deserved recognition of what the president has done for the country since assuming power in 2005.

Pohamba fended off former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Mozambique’s former President Armando Guebuzza to bag the prestigious award, which has not been won since 2011.

Outgoing government spokesperson, Information and Communication Technology Minister Joel Kaapanda yesterday said Pohamba deserved the accolade.

“I would like to congratulate President Pohamba for winning the award – a huge one for that matter,” Kaapanda said.

“He managed the affairs of the country well, maintained political stability and an open door policy as well as a cordial relationship with all political parties.”

Kaapanda singled-out Pohamba’s “opinion-sharing and excellent ability to listen to different opinions”, as some of the factors that made his administration effective.

“You could see how various countries like Madagascar and Lesotho came to Namibia seeking advice on how to sort out their [political] issues. Namibia played a key role in returning democracy to Madagascar,” said Kaapanda.

Political friends and rivals welcomed news of Pohamba’s award.

The Congress of Democrats (CoD), which sought to democratically knock Pohamba off the presidency in the 2005 and 2009 elections, congratulated the President.

“This prize speaks of two things, namely, that others beyond our borders watch with eagle eyes and are wishing us well; also convinced that good governance remains a core pillar of our people’s progress and development. Secondly, President Pohamba’s recognition, sets high standards for others to emulate,” said the party in a congratulatory message sent out yesterday.

CoD Secretary General Tsudao Gurirab said during the 10 years as president, Pohamba nurtured a convivial atmosphere in the running of the business of the State by seeking views and input of all in his office.

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