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Mozambique's former president honored with prize

Mozambique's former president got a more than US$5 million (3.4 million EUR) prize designed to promote good governance in a continent often blighted by misrule.

Joaquim Chissano, who ruled Mozambique for 18 years and lead the country out of a devastating civil war, received the inaugural Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which organizers say is the world's largest individual monetary award.

The award surpasses the prestigious Nobel prizes in the amount of individual prize money, but it has been criticized as unlikely to lure dictators away from power and dissuade African rulers from corruption and repression.

Annan said that good governance was essential for progress in Africa, often perceived as a "concentration of failures."

"Africa faces enormous challenges, but this is our continent, we must not, we can not leave it to others," said Annan, who presented Chissano with the award. "We must have the courage, the vision, the determination to work together to unlock the extraordinary potential of the African people."

Chissano was awarded the prize last month in London and honored Monday during a ceremony at the famed Alexandria Library on the Mediterranean Sea coast.

"I know only too well how much still needs to be done to uplift my country and the continent," he said. "I look forward to using the prize to do all I can to promote good governance in a continent that is changing rapidly for the better."

Launched last year, the prize is awarded by a foundation created by Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese-born billionaire who founded the African telecommunications company Celtel International.

The prize awards US$5 million (3.4 million EUR) over the first 10 years to the winner and US$200,000 (134,000 EUR) each year for life thereafter, with an optional US$200,000 a year if the winner supports post-office initiatives.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who was not at the ceremony, said in a recorded videotaped message broadcast at the ceremony that he hoped the award would "encourage a new generation of African leaders to follow" Chissano's example.

During Monday's ceremony, Mandela was declared an honorary laureate. The amount of prize money awarded to Mandela was not made public, but organizers said it was "substantial" and in the range of Chissano's award.

Chissano, who voluntarily relinquished power in 2004 after having twice been elected, was known for his gentle nature earned him the nickname "Maria" at home. He brokered a lasting peace after Mozambique's postcolonial civil war and oversaw the African nation's transition from Marxism to a free market economy.

In selecting Chissano, the foundation judged African leaders from sub-Saharan countries who left office in the past three years. To be awarded the prize, the winners must have been elected and left office voluntarily.

In choosing a winner, the foundation committee measured the leaders' ability to offer their people security, rule of law, economic opportunity and political freedoms.

The prize is intended to be awarded annually, but according to prize rules, it can be withheld if the selection committee does not believe any candidate deserves it.

An African telecommunications pioneer, Ibrahim sold his Celtel International in 2005 to MTC Kuwait for US$3.4 billion (2.6 billion EUR). A year later, he decided to use the money from the sale to fund the African prize.

Ibrahim has said he wanted to give good African leaders financial backing and make political careers more appealing to younger Africans.

"It's great to have the do-gooders, the U.N. care about us," Ibrahim said Monday in Alexandria. "But Africa is really our business, and we have to do our best."

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