This week, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation selected yet another male African leader for its Ibrahim Prize. This time, it was former leader, President Pedro Verona Pires of Cape Verde, who won the 2011 Ibrahim prize for achievement in African leadership. The foundation did not nominate any leaders the last two years. Last year, I was rooting for them to have some radical imagination and give the prize to the women of Rwanda; and I was disappointed.
Established in 2006, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation supports good governance and great leadership in Africa. The Ibrahim Prize is awarded to a democratically elected former African Executive Head of State or Government who has served their term in office within the limits set by the country's constitution, has left office in the last three years, and has demonstrated excellence in office.
The prize has already been given to three people. In 2007, it was given to Joaquim Alberto Chissano, who served as the second Head of State of Mozambique from November 1986 to February 2005, elected President in October 1994, and again in December 1999. He stepped down from the Presidency in 2004 without seeking the third term that the constitution allowed. Also in 2007, the foundation nominated Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela as an Honorary Laureate. And in 2008, it selected Festus Gontebanye Mogae, who served as the third President of Botswana between 1998 and 2008.
Africa needs its institutions, both new and old, to be more daring and more inline with the future and not the past. As an African woman, I keep hoping this organization will broaden its criteria for this particular award. African Organizations need to break the norm, be change makers and not follow the old ways. Why? Africa does not have enough women presidents or executives right now and to limit leadership to just those who are elected limits the contributions of women.
Africa is on a revolution path and its institution -- privately and public -- need to evolve. African Women are leading Africa from the grassroots. Politics, Government and Power are important but some of the real work is done at the grassroots.
The prize committee chair Salim Ahmed Salim said: "The prize committee has been greatly impressed by President Verona Pires's vision in transforming Cape Verde into a model of democracy, stability and increased prosperity." He deserves it, I agree but my hope was to see more from this organization.
This years' Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to three women, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkul Karman; two are African and two have not been elected but are still leaders. The other real truth is that singer Cesária Évora of Cape Verde should have been selected, as she has also done more for her country. Just recently, Evora's agent Lusafrica announced that she had ended her singing career due to poor health. Africa and the world needs to acknowledge her. She needs a lifetime Grammy for the work she has done in music and the stories she sung about her people and county.
And as a woman, leadership is not seen only in places of power like presidency or ex-presidency as is the case of the last three winners of the prize. I dare to dream of a new Africa, one that looks at and acknowledges everyday women as contributors to the growth of the continent. My wish for this institution is simply -- nominate Rwanda Women for the leadership in rebuilding their country. It is time to acknowledge them, they have rebuilt the future of that country with the help of the president, and not vice-versa.
Follow Atim Oton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/atimannetteoton