Tuesday, November 06, 2007

glittering prizes

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation is to award Joaquim Chissano, the former President of Mozambique , the inaugural Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. The largest individual award in the world . It comprises of
US$5 million over 10 years and US$200,000 annually for life thereafter and up to US$200,000 a year for 10 years towards the winner’s public interest activities and good causes . The award was ostensively to reward Chissano achievements in bringing peace, reconciliation, stable democracy and economic progress to his country .
Kofi Annan stated that “it is his role in leading Mozambique from conflict to peace and democracy that President Chissano has made his most outstanding contribution.”

From the pen of Issa Shivji commenting on this hypocrisy .

"...It is for the people to decide who is a good or a bad leader and how to award a good one and punish a bad one. I certainly cannot imagine Mozambicans (or any African people for that matter) awarding a 5-million dollar prize to Mr. Chissano. First because Chissano’s goodness itself is, I am sure, a contentious issue in Mozambique. Secondly, Mozambican people, if at all, would have awarded their leader by including him in a list of honour or putting his picture on a postal stamp. And if they had 5 million dollars to spare, they would have probably built secondary schools to produce future good leaders rather than give it away to Chissano to “live a better life” and invest in business (which is what Chissano said in a BBC interview he would use the money for.)

The worst disappointment in the prize saga has been its uncritical and unqualified celebration by scribes and even academics and intellectuals. Since this prize to a retired president was for stepping down from power or “good governance’ or bringing democracy and peace to his country, it was expected that analysts would go beyond the superficial and the obvious to a deeper understanding and explanation of issues of war and peace and democracy and dictatorships in Africa. Before we celebrate, we must understand what it is that we are celebrating. Before we applaud this prize to Chissano we must understand the history, politics and forces which underpinned war and peace in Mozambique.

...Chissano took over from Samora and under the tutelage of Washington steered the neo-liberal course. It is under this new direction that the former freedom fighters like Chissano’s family and Gebuza and others (with some honourable exceptions) began accumulating wealth and became businessmen. Chissano’s son Nyimpine, a businessman, was implicated in the murder of a journalist Carlos Cardoso who was investigating the fraudulent disappearance of 14 million dollars from the Commercial Bank of Mozambique in 1996. The story of wealth accumulation by political leaders in Mozambique is not that different from what we have been witnessing and debating in Tanzania. It is even on a larger scale...

...So, when our leaders receive prizes for their democratic achievements we should ask ourselves for which and whose democracy they are getting a prize. Are they getting the prize for a neo-liberal democracy under which the World Bank and “development partners” (read: developed predators!) impose privatization of national assets and resources; under which their diplomats pressurize our ministers and governments to sign utterly one-sided contracts with the likes of golden sharks; under which the parliament is literally ordered to pass laws which have been drafted by their consultants ...

...Mr. Mo Ibrahim: you have made millions of dollars from the sweat and blood of the African people. If you want to return a few million to the people, build schools, dispensaries, and water wells in the south of your own country rather than giving them to Chisasanos of this world. Do not add insult to injury by robbing (poor) Peter to pay (rich) Paul. "

Sentiments that we of Socialist Banner concur

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