The immediate past president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has become the first female recipient of the $5m Mo Ibrahim prize for achievement in African leadership.

Sirleaf who served two terms as Liberia’s president from 2006 to January 2018 was announced as the 2017 recipient of the prestigious award in a statement by Chair of the Prize Committee, Dr Salim Ahmed

Ahmed said: “Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focused on building a nation and its democratic institutions. Throughout her two terms in office, she worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of Liberia. Such a journey cannot be without some shortcomings and, today, Liberia continues to face many challenges. Nevertheless, during her twelve years in office, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf laid the foundations on which Liberia can now build.”

Reacting to the announcement, the prize inaugurator, Mo Ibrahim said: “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. 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.”

The $5m prize money is paid over a period of ten years and US$200,000 annually for life thereafter. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation will consider granting a further US$200,000 per year for ten years towards public interest activities and good causes espoused by the Ibrahim Laureate.

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 said Liberia was the only country out of 54 to improve in every category and sub-category of the foundation’s index of African governance since 2006. Categories include safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, and human development.

Sirleaf, who was succeeded by former footballer, George Weah as President of Liberia in January 2017, adds this to her plethora of awards which includes the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

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