- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NAIROBI, Kenya — It’s the biggest cash prize available to former leaders of African countries, and no one was worthy this year — again.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation announced Monday that it will not award its $5 million prize that recognizes democratically elected African leaders who excel in office and — critically — leave when they are supposed to.

The prize committee said it reviewed “a number” of eligible candidates but decided that none met the award criteria. The group did not reveal who was considered, but any African leader who left office in the past three years was eligible.

Mo Ibrahim, a British mobile-phone magnate who was born in Sudan, said he was not disappointed that the prize was not given away this year.

“Not at all. This is a prize for exceptional leadership, and we don’t need to go through the motions to just find anybody,” he said by telephone. “We have a wonderful prize committee which comprises some wonderful men and women, and they set really high standards.”

The cash prize has been awarded three times in its six-year history.

Former Cape Verde President Pedro Verona Pires won last year. In 2008, Festus Mogae of Botswana won; in 2007, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique won.

No award was given in 2009 and 2010.

Mr. Ibrahim said he thinks the award has helped increase conversations about positive leadership in Africa instead of talk about the continent’s murderous or corrupt leaders.

“We wanted to bring the issues of governance and leadership to the center of the table, for the issues to be discussed by African society and African leadership,” Mr. Ibrahim said. “Bad stories make news. That brings an unintended bias in the media coverage, and that is not helpful for the casual listener.”

Africa generally is making rapid political and economic progress.

But many of the more than 50 countries on the continent are still ruled by autocrats who stay in office for decades.

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has ruled Angola since 1979. Cameroon has been ruled by President Paul Biya since 1982. Yoweri Museveni has ruled Uganda since 1986.

Mr. Ibrahim said many people around the world know about bad African leaders like Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.

“But nobody knows the good guys. The prize is to bring forward a picture of the good side of Africa,” he said. “Africa is not necessarily a terrible place.”

The Ibrahim Index of African Governance, also released Monday, found that governance in Africa has improved since 2000, especially in the health and gender sectors.

But the index found that many of the continent’s regional powerhouses — Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa — have endured poor governance since 2006.

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