LONDON -- For the fourth time in five years, a prestigious multimillion-dollar prize offered annually to African leaders for good government went unawarded on Monday, renewing questions about the stringency of its rules, the paucity of candidates and the state of democracy on the continent.
The prize, endowed by Mo Ibrahim, a Sudan-born telecommunications billionaire, is intended to reward democratically elected African leaders who retire voluntarily at the conclusion of their mandated terms after displaying strong qualities of governance and leadership.
The prize is worth $5 million over the first 10 years, followed by a stipend of at least $200,000 a year.
Since its creation seven years ago, it has been awarded three times, in 2007, 2008 and 2011. Pedro de Verona Rodrigues Pires, the former president of Cape Verde, was the most recent recipient. Nelson Mandela of South Africa was given an honorary award.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation said Monday that it considered every African head of state or government who had retired since 2010 before deciding not to award the prize this year. The foundation did not elaborate on its reasons for withholding the award.
The chairman of the panel that considers candidates for the award is Salim Ahmed Salim, a former secretary general of the Organization of African Unity and a former prime minister of Tanzania. He said in a statement that the award "honors former heads of state or government, who, during their mandate, have demonstrated excellence in leading their country, and by doing so, serve as role models for the next generation." But "after careful consideration," he added, "the prize committee has determined not to award the 2013 Prize for Excellence in Leadership."
The foundation made public on Monday its annual assessment of the state of African governance, concluding that while "overall governance continues to improve at the continental level," aspects of life in Africa like personal safety and the rule of law had "declined worryingly."
There is "a widening span in performance between the best and worst governed countries," the assessment said, and that divergence "may sound a warning signal, with the new century seeing fewer regional conflicts but increased domestic social unrest."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times. First Published October 14, 2013 2:01 PM