Ellen Johnson Sirleaf wins 2017 Ibrahim Prize

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Former president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

The 2017 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership has been awarded to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation announced today following a meeting of its independent Prize Committee.

In its citation, the Prize Committee praised her exceptional and transformative leadership, in the face of unprecedented and renewed challenges, to lead Liberia’s recovery following many years of devastating civil war.

Salim Ahmed Salim, Chair, Ibrahim Prize Committee

“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,” said Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, Chair of the Prize Committee, announcing the decision. “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.”

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became President of Liberia on 16 January 2006, after winning the 2005 national elections. She served her first term 2006-11 and was then successfully re-elected for a second term, serving in office 2012-17.

Sirleaf is the fifth recipient of the Ibrahim Prize, which recognizes and celebrates excellence in African leadership. The Ibrahim Prize aims to distinguish leaders who, during their time in office, have developed their countries, strengthened democracy and human rights for the shared benefit of their people, and advanced sustainable development.

Since 2006, Liberia was the only country out of 54 to improve in every category and sub-category of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. This led Liberia to move up ten places in the Index’s overall ranking during this period.

On hearing the outcome of the Prize Committee’s deliberations, 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.”

Madam Johnson Sirleaf joins Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia (2014), Pedro Pires of Cabo Verde (2011), Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008) and Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique (2007) as an Ibrahim Prize Laureate. Nelson Mandela was made the inaugural Honorary Laureate in 2007.

The Ibrahim Prize is a US$5 million award paid over 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 Ibrahim Prize for African Leadership recognizes and celebrates African executive leaders who, under challenging circumstances, have developed their countries and strengthened democracy and human rights for the shared benefit of their people, paving the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity. It also highlights exceptional role models for the continent and ensures that the African continent continues to benefit from the experience and wisdom of exceptional leaders once they have left national office, by enabling them to continue in other public roles on the continent. The Prize is an award and a standard for excellence in leadership in Africa, and not a ‘first prize’, there is not necessarily a Laureate every year.


  1. The Mo Ibrahim committee wanted to give it to a woman. They did not follow their rules or look at the corruption under this woman. They have too much money and no sense.

  2. Not a single corruption case was ever prosecuted under this woman. What kind of governance is that? targeted those that spoke the truth, fired people she did not like, wasted the country’s money on NOCAL, Sable Mining, signing checks to Fonati over $750.000. She should pay all that money back.

    • False statement…corruption cases were prosecuted but due to our weak jury system people were found not guilty by the jurors after being bribed…

  3. Congratulations madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for winning the Mo Ibrahim Price! Your leadership brought pride to mama Liberia even though many Liberians are still living in extreme poverty. As outlined by the vetting committee, you indeed took Liberia from a failed state status to a progressive one which many Liberians indeed could agree with in spite of so much still undone. Again, congratulations madam former president and best wishes on your retirement!

  4. Yes she indeed took Liberia from a failed state status to a progressive one which many Liberians indeed could agree with in spite of so much still undone. I remembered when Ellen came to Power, the entire country was broken, no road, no Health facilities and most of all very poor school system we all know that our country is still poor but she has done her part Again, congratulations Madam Sirleaf! Kudos and hands up for you

  5. Shame on Salim Salim and his Mo Ibrahim Prize Committee for lousy vetting and poor judgment. Every Liberian knows that Ellen Sirleaf is nothing but an incurable con artist. Having used every trick in the book conning a feckless international community to support both her bids for the Liberian presidency, this woman, along with her family and friends, robbed her country blind, an now leave it totally bankrupt, with nothing to show at all. Had Salim’s people only ventured a little below the surface, they could have spared themselves the unnecessary embarrassment of this bogus choice. They get a big well-deserved F.

  6. One thing is clear. Ellen is the most decorated Liberian leader in history. and the second most in Africa, second only to Mandela himself. Yes, we wish she could have done more for Liberia. The committee has it’s criteria, and she met them. As a fellow Liberian, its honor to Liberia. So congrats to madam President.

    • She did not meet the three year rule, so no she did not meet the criteria. Please do not include her with Mandela. She cannot shine his shoes., She only got the prize because she is a woman. end of story. MO Ibrahim committee will never be respected again.

  7. The brightest and the best among her detractors would philosophize that fact and fiction are inseperable in globalized fake prisms, thus truth is what the powerful say. They would point to the plight of millions of our people at home as proof enough of EJS’s bad governance, which makes her continual pole-vaulting for foreign validation just vain indulgence. Of course, that’s opinions no one can begrudge, or silence.

    On the other hand, her supporters could counteract by referencing the current abysmal African leadership culture, and posit that Africa’s first female president is the foremost political success story on the continent this century. It would be a motivational pitch on behalf of our forever demeaned, disgraced and abused womenfolk, and therefore a just cause much larger than missteps in Liberia for which to deny her the Mo Ibrahim award.

    Anyway, critical observers like us have been equally loud in condemnation and commendation of EJS’s performance, yet very grateful that she didn’t leave Liberia in a state of sectarian conflict…

    So, on that note, congratulations, Madam President. We pray for your continued good health, and hope you think about establishing a Teachers and Nurses Training Foundation for Liberian women with this financial windfall. This isn’t to suggest, by any stretch, that you’re rich, but rather to register that it can morph into a legacy that will outlast all the power and glory of those dozen years in office.

  8. It’s so sad that people who live out of a country, just any country, do not bother to soul-search sometimes.

    Few examples…..
    When Jerry Rawlings ruled Ghana, a majority of his compatriots thought that he was worst than a buffoon. But, some people, notably Africans in the diaspora, thought that Rawlings was setting the record straight in his country. Those Africans and others who lived outside of Ghana did not bother to see how dangerously venomous Rawlings could have been or whether he sliced his ice with a sledgehammer.

    The Ivory Coast:
    When F.H. Boigny was president, he ruled for approximately 33 years. Most people who did not live in the Ivory Coast thought that Boigny was a great guy for the Ivorians. Guess what? A power vacuum occurred after Boigny’s demise. A civil unrest destabilized the once prosperous country. That’s because there was unhappiness in the country. But, Ivorian diasporans and others, (maybe some European powers) thought that a one-man rule was suitable for the people.

    Back to Liberia…
    The leadership of Tubman was not as honky-dory as outsiders (meaning non-Liberian inhabitants) thought it was. Leading Liberian thinkers and intellectuals like Fahnbuleh the Elder, Professor Amos Sawyer, Rudulph Roberts (Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh) and others made some moves, (not disrespectfully), to let Tubman know that a change was imperative. Well, many Africans and others from Asia, didn’t think that a majority of Liberians had issues with Tubman’s leadership. They were dead wrong.
    Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf:
    I have no problems with the Mo Abraham award that’s been given to Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf. What I am saying is that if the people of Liberia were asked to vote on whether Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf should get the Abraham award, her margin of victory would not be overwhelming, if she had won.
    Why? First of all, it’s fair to give credit. Johnson-Sirleaf tried her level best. Her legacy includes the modernization of Roberts International Airport, the ministerial complex, few paid roads, etc. Overall, most Liberians are unhappy with her. Let’s take a look….
    The defeat of Boakai was an absolute repudiation of Johnson-Sirleaf’s leadership. If she had done a superb job, Weah’s margin of victory would not have been 2 to 1!

    Johnson-Sirleaf’s endorsement of Weah (although not verbally pronounced) made her to be an apostate. That is unheard of in major Demoncratic nations, not even in second or third world nations. That move of hers diminished her popularity. Unity Party is about to lose its significance.

    The Liberian economy is not blowing enough powerful steam. To put it mildly, the economy is lethargic. Some may point to the Ebola epidemic as a major setback for the sluggishness of the economy. But, that’s not really, really, really the case. Throughout her presidency, the Liberian economy did not gear up in the high 60s. Food prices were usually unstable. In other words, the demand was higher than the supply. Some may point to Liberia’s torrential rainfall. Okay, we are a tropical nation. That’s an excuse that I am reluctant to buy. Shouldn’t we prepare for calamities? As it relates to Ebola, yeah, it was a setback, but somehow inconsequential if one takes a good look at the overall picture. Too many excuses. Sometimes, if not always, leaders must fess up. The Liberian economy was not too good! Period.

    Unemployment during the 12 years of Unity Party rule under Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf was not too good either. The most affected and apoplectic group of unemployed Liberians were the semi-skill and unskilled people. This segment of eligible voters were not ebullient at all. They voted overwhelmingly for Opong Weah. Their act of doing so was morally justified and a resounding repudiation of Johnson-Sirleaf.

    Finally, if the Abraham Award committee had done some kind of introspection, the case might have been different. But she got it. Okay, it’s all yours, Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf. Whatever the case, we wish you well.


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