Former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has received the 2017 Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership at a special ceremony in Kigali, Rwanda. Johnson Sirleaf, the first female president on the continent becomes the first woman to win the $5m Mo Ibrahim leadership prize. In her speech in Kigali, President Sirleaf made recourse to how Africa’s progress was dependent on women and youths on the continent.
She said: “Political parties are organized by patronage and patriarchy. For most of them, democracy is practiced during the campaign cycle but not necessarily within the party itself.”
Her statement rings true of many political situations all-round the continent, where women and youths have been sidelined from party politics due to finance and various other constrains. She noted that lack of “campaign finance laws” prevented both women and youths from “taking on leadership roles and leaving the party apparatus to well-established economic and political cartels.”
Elections go beyond voting. Kenya’s elections that were nullified last year were a testimony of the importance of how the electoral process is important in an election. The generalised understanding of democracy as voting was questioned by President Sirleaf who said “democracy must devolve from a single event, into the institutionalization of a process that provides access to all of its participants.”
President Sirleaf: “In Africa, we tend to celebrate elections as the milestone”
Sirleaf didn’t fail to take a shot at African leaders who cling to power and practice “managed democracy.” Without mentioning names, one could infer that the likes of Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni were being addressed. Democracy on the continent still has a long way to be achieved fully. Press freedom and transparency are still key issues in many countries on the continent.
President Sirleaf was awarded the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership for her post-conflict consolidation of Liberia’s democracy. Sirleaf will receive $200,000 over a span of 10 years. She is the fifth person to receive the award which has been in existence for the past 10 years.