Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

African dictators warned: 'Your time is up'

By Stephanie Busari, CNN and Emily Wither for CNN
updated 6:17 AM EDT, Mon October 17, 2011
Mo Ibrahim's message to dictators:
Mo Ibrahim's message to dictators: "Please retire, otherwise Tahrir square is coming to your country."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sudanese mogul Mo Ibrahim warns long-running leaders that continent has changed
  • Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership was not awarded for two years running
  • Former Cape Verde President, Pedro Verona Pires won prize this year

(CNN) -- Sudanese billionaire and communications mogul Mo Ibrahim has issued a warning to African leaders clinging to power, saying people are no longer prepared to put up with bad governance on the continent.

Ibrahim says the face of Africa has changed and the Arab Spring has shown the world that the younger generation are not afraid to demand change.

"There's a lot of African people who are educated and well informed and that's a better generation than ours and those people wont take nonsense," he said.

"These are the people that went out in Tahrir Square, Tunis and Libya and bred havoc," he added.

African dictators warned 'time's up'

The businessman's remarks come as his foundation awards its annual prize for good governance and leadership in Africa.

It has been two years since the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has awarded the accolade, which goes to candidates based on their "exercise of leadership and the performance of their country during their time in office," according to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation website.

The committee, made up of former leaders and Nobel Prize winners, said that there had been no worthy candidates in the previous two years.

"They have a strict criteria, this is not a pension, this is a prize for excellence in leadership, it's not easy," said Ibrahim.

Former Cape Verde President, Pedro Verona Pires, who stepped down in August after 10 years in power, was recognized this year.

The group said that the leader had turned the cluster of islands off the West African coast into "a model of democracy, stability and increased prosperity."

I think the quality of leaders coming to Africa now are really improving a lot and what is important in Africa is the rise in civil society.
Sudanese communications mogul Mo Ibrahim

The chair of the prize committee, Salim Ahmed Salim, said. "Under his 10 years as president, the nation became only the second African country to graduate from the United Nation's Least Developed category and has won international recognition for its record on human rights and good governance."

The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership is one of the world's most valuable individual prizes. Ibrahim made a fortune in the cell phone industry, established the foundation bearing his name in 2006.

Previous winners include Mozambique's former President, Joaquim Chissano and Botswana's President, Festus Mogae.

The $5 million award is paid over 10 years and $200,000 annually for life thereafter. The Foundation will also consider funding good causes supported by the laureate.

Ibrahim says the prize is needed as leaders in African countries can sometimes be tempted to hang on to power for monetary reasons.

He says he had to start the foundation because leaders were not doing the job they were supposed to do.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea and Angola's President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos are two of the longest running leaders in Africa. Both have been head of their respective countries for 32 years. While Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has been in power for 31 years since 1980.

The foundation uses an 84-criteria index to grade governance in Africa. The top-governed African nations, according to the index, are Mauritius, Cape Verde, Seychelles, Botswana and South Africa.

But while there may not have been an award in the previous two years, Ibrahim predicts the foundation will be giving out more money in the future.

"I think the quality of leaders coming to Africa now are really improving a lot and what is important in Africa is the rise in civil society," he said.

"The pressure from civil society, I'm sure is going to bring forward and produce more and more wonderful leaders for our future," he continued.

The hope of the foundation is to help the continent move towards greater democracy and peaceful transitions of power.

However, Ibrahim believes that the game is up for leaders who cling to power for 30 to 40-years. His cites Libya's former leader for 41-years, Moammar Gaddafi, as an example.

"The message is clear to all this kind of generation of leadership: gentlemen time is up," he said.

"Please retire, otherwise Tahrir square is coming to your country."

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT