The Mo Ibrahim Award, an erstwhile coveted award, has brought itself into public disrepute and has now become a joke, with the choice of its latest leadership award, knowing full well the tarnished reputation of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, something that is no secret even within the international arena.
Announcing the decision, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, Chair of the Prize Committee, said:
“Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focussed 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”.
The public record of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, is in sharp contradiction to what is depicted by the Panel of the Mo Ibrahim Award.
The Prize Committee failed to do a thorough research into the character of Mrs. Sirleaf. Had it done so, it could never have awarded her the much-coveted Mo Ibrahim Award. By not making a thorough research, the Award has brought itself into disrepute and become a ‘laughing stock’.
That Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was an accomplice to the war that ameliorated the lives of some 250,000 Liberians is no secret, not even to the international community, nor has she ever denied this. She has admitted that she provided funding for the execution of the 14-year carnage.
According to some of her collaborators, she was not on the periphery but was crucial to its success. Far from spending just US$10,000, she was considered the chief financier for Charles Taylor, sponsoring the first 188 recruits that trained in Libya before coming to Liberia. This information is in the public domain, so how could the Mo Ibrahim Award not have known about it?
Honouring Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, despite the fact that she was complicit in the Liberian Civil War, no matter what contributions she might have made in the recovery effort is like praising someone who stabs a victim and later withdraws the knife from the flesh of the victim. The scars will always remain. The Mo Ibrahim Award is truly a joke and will never regain its credibility and stature.
To say that Madam Sirleaf has led a process of reconciliation, is to add insult to injury. The reconciliation process that was commissioned by the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord was hijacked by Mrs. Sirleaf after it concluded that she was complicit in the war effort and should not hold public office for 30 years. She thwarted the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which to this day have not been fully implemented. So much for leading a process of reconciliation.
If the Mo Ibrahim Award is about good governance, then Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf has failed miserably, and granting her the award makes mockery of that great institution and the good intentions of philanthropist Mo Ibrahim. It is a fact that Mrs. Sirleaf’s administration was characterized by nepotism, cronyism and corruption. Her son presided over the demise of the National Oil Company of Liberia, resulting in the disappearance of millions of dollars, without any trace. She took personal responsibility for the fate of the oil company. By not demonstrating the will to bring to justice those who, it was shown, had diverted public funds to their personal use, President Sirleaf had become an accomplice to public thievery on a grandiose scale.
To then reward someone with such tarnished reputation with a distinguished award has the adverse effect of damaging the image of the Mo Ibrahim Award itself. This is why one can say that Mo Ibrahim, by rewarding thievery and impunity has ‘shot itself in the foot’ and brought the great institution into public disrepute.
One thing is clear, though, award or no award, there shall be no impunity for war and economic criminals. They will be brought to justice!