Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim dashed dreams on Monday by simply opening his mouth. For the third time in its six-year existence, the accolade that bears Ibrahim’s name — the most valuable achievement prize in the world — has no winner.
The Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, awarded by the telecom entrepreneur’s London-based foundation, pays recipients $5 million over 10 years and $200,000 per year afterward. Winners also have the chance to bank an extra $200,000 for 10 years if they support good causes, AFP reported. Ibrahim told the BBC he started the prize to encourage sub-Saharan African leaders, who often come from poor backgrounds and are reluctant to leave office because they are afraid of poverty, to willingly let go of their power. But this year — as in 2009 and 2010 — the foundation prize committee found no candidate worthy of the distinction, which is awarded to democratically elected African leaders who have exhibited “excellence in office” and have voluntarily left office within the past three years after serving their mandated term, AFP reported.
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“You make your bed, you have to lie on it,” Ibrahim said during Monday’s announcement. “If we said we’re going to have a prize for exceptional leadership, we have to stick to that. We are not going to compromise.”
AFP reported that Ibrahim said the foundation would lose its credibility if it awarded the prize to leaders who failed to meet all of the criteria. The mogul maintained the excellence of the three winners of the award.
“We are not just in the business of positive messages,” he told AFP. “In the first six years the prize committee has selected three very worthy laureates who continue to be an inspiration and whose examples, we hope, will be emulated.”
In 2011, President Pedro Pires of Cape Verde received the award. During his term, Pires raised living standards, fought Portuguese colonialism and introduced multiparty politics, the BBC reported. Previously, the committee crowned Nelson Mandela the honorary inaugural laureate in 2006. Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano won in 2007 and Botswana’s Festus Mogae earned the honor in 2008, according to CNN. Earlier this year, South Africa’s Desmond Tutu received a special $2 million award from the foundation for “speaking truth to power,” the BBC reported.
Ibrahim’s foundation isn’t the only one to decline honors to hopeful candidates. The Pulitzer Prize Board has refrained from awarding its coveted fiction prize 10 times in its 95-year existence, with its most recent snub occurring earlier this year. The committee also neglected to crown a winner in the editorial writing category. And the Nobel Committee — which last week controversially gave its Peace Prize to the European Union — has declined to award the honor over several years in the past, notably during the first and second World Wars.