Mo Ibrahim award, Sudan
 
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The Mo Ibrahim Prize and the impending implosion in Sudan
E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Ghanadot

My heart bleeds for Sudan as I read an impassioned piece in the Financial Times of January 6, 2011, (
Sudan is a warning to all of Africa), written by one of her noble sons; Mo Ibrahim, founder and chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and the Africa Leadership Prize Award.

His piece starts with a story that sets the plight of Sudan in sight as she moves towards a referendum this Sunday on whether the South will secede as fully independent state from the rest of the country.

In a painful way, Mr. Ibrahim narrates the story of a progressive North Sudanese, appealing to fellow citizens in Khartoum to allow common sense and “brotherhood and unity among all Sudanese” to prevail for the sake of progress.

In the midst of the Northerner’s speech, Mr. Ibrahim tells us, came a dilemma when a young “southern man stood up and brought the audience back to earth.”

“That is all fine, sir,” the young man said to the speaker. “But will you allow me to marry your sister?”

With that question, the point about Sudan’s dilemma was made plain. And so was knowledge made about ethnic prejudices in the rest of Africa.

Well, I feel like asking Mr. Ibrahim a similar cheeky question as posed by the young man: Wasn’t he the same man whose foundation has limited or withheld the promised Mo Ibrahim Prize Award for former African presidents for three years in a roll?

The last award was in 2007. So for three years, the Mo Ibrahim Prize award hasn’t found an African president worthy of the democratic credentials required for the prize.

Does the prize exist and are they looking for a real African leader or some imaginary ideal?

But, in case you wonder what this prize has to do with the trouble in Sudan, I will point out the moral clarity Mr. Ibrahim shows about the situation in his article on Sudan and ask why he omits assessing President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir’s efforts, as a potential candidate for the Mo Ibrahim award? Would it not be an active way to work towards identifying his ideal president for the award?

 

This much said, Bashir is Mr. Ibrahim’s president and has been in power for over 20 years, a rule encompassing much of the Sudan conflict!

For the Southern Sudanese, the referendum will result in a matter of choice; just like it has for Mo’s foundation withholding the prize for three years. Rather than automatically granting it to the most deserving, the foundation has preferred to reserve it for the abstract – a president yet to be born.

Southern Sudan’s choice could be instant independence; rather than the step by step approach required to unify the belligerent regions.

No offense to Mr. Ibrahim intended, but I thought the 2009 award could have gone to the best in the bunch selected for that year, as I wrote in an article then; thinking that competition to do the most good each term, among future leaders, would grow to give us the ideal laureates.

In 2009, the award could have easily gone to President Kufuor of Ghana. He was the best in the bunch. His transition from office alone was matchless; in the 2008 election that brought Ghana close to the brink. There was no forceful exit from office for him because the constitution was observed. A prize for Kufuor could have been useful for Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast in 2010.

Perhaps, the same prize could have influenced the behavior of President al-Bashir of Sudan too - who has been in power since 1989.

Otherwise, Mr. Ibrahim’s warning for the rest of Africa holds; a dire future for the rest of the continent.

He says “Sudan has been an experiment that resonated across Africa: if we, the largest country on the continent, reaching from the Sahara to the Congo, bridging religions, cultures and a multitude of ethnicities, were able to construct a prosperous and peaceful state from our diverse citizenry, so too could the rest of Africa.”

Mr. Ibrahim narrates how at his foundation’s annual forum in Mauritius, some 300 African opinion leaders “came together to discuss the economic integration of the continent. The debate at the forum was not about whether we need integration.” but rather “why we are moving towards closer political and economic co-operation so slowly.”

After the day’s event, as Mr. Ibrahim tells it, “everyone danced joyfully.….. there was a cloud hanging over the Sudanese guests among us. A woman was crying as her colleagues tried to calm her. While other Africans were celebrating their coming together, we knew that in a few weeks our country would start to break apart.”

Mr. Ibrahim continues: “That we have failed should sound a warning to all Africans. Sudan, at one million square miles, is the continent’s largest country, sharing borders with nine other states. The fault lines that have divided us as a people extend from Eritrea to Nigeria. If Sudan starts to crumble, the shock waves will spread.”

As Africans, we do understand Sudan’s plight and, therefore, do not want the implications foretold by Mr. Ibrahim. But could his Mo Ibrahim Prize be re-configured to goad even bad leaders in Africa to one spectacular good deed before they expire – quit after two terms or less in office?

For three years, the prize has been dormant, thus taking the sheen off it. The Nobel Prize was given to President Obama and he was elated. Then came The Gusi Peace Prize (the Asian Nobel) for Dr. Chinery-Hesse and those of us in Ghana were encouraged.  The same can happen to recipients of the Mo Ibrahim Prize (perhaps, al Bashir too, if he steps out of office to give Southern Sudan the hope to think that there could be light at the end of the tunnel). To produce this effect, the Mo prize has to be constantly active in its gradual approach to promote the ideal African leader.

Perhaps the same gradual approach can then be used in the Sudan affair, if it is not too late already: Request Southern Sudan to allow another term of the semi-autonomous state to proceed with the hope that, in time, internal relations within the country can improve. And the proof is that change for the better is possible: Al Bashir is no longer in office after all these years.

E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Publisher www.ghanadot.com, Washington, DC, January 07, 2011

Permission to publish: Please feel free to publish or reproduce, with credits, unedited. If posted at a website, email a copy of the web page to publisher@ghanadot.com . Or don't publish at all.

 


 

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