JOHANNESBURG, (Reuters) – Former Cape Verde president Pedro Verona Pires won the $5 million Mo Ibrahim award for African leadership on Monday for shepherding his tiny Atlantic Ocean island state from autocracy to prosperous democracy.
Organisers 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, organisers said.
Pires, now 77, 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 towards the first democratic elections in 1991.