Former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Picture:
Former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Picture:
Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been awarded a $5 million African Leadership prize by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Candidates for the prize are African heads of state or government who have left office in the past three years, been democratically elected and served their constitutionally mandated term. They must also show "exceptional leadership."

Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Africa's first female president, is also the first female and only the fifth person to receive the Ibrahim leadership award since it was established in 2006.

The prize committee on Monday praised Sirleaf's "exceptional and transformative leadership, in the face of unprecedented and renewed challenges" in leading Liberia's recovery following years of civil war. Sirleaf, who was Liberia's president from 2006 through 2017, stepped down in January, handing power to President George Weah.

She lifted Liberia from the destruction of back-to-back civil wars and saw it through an Ebola outbreak that killed nearly 5,000 Liberians in 2014-2015.

"Throughout her two terms in office, she worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of Liberia," said prize committee chair Salim Ahmed Salim. "In very difficult circumstances, she helped guide her nation toward a peaceful and democratic future, paving the way for her successor to follow. I am proud to see the first woman Ibrahim laureate, and I hope Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will continue to inspire women in Africa and beyond."

Although Sirleaf has been criticised for not being tough on corruption, the Mo Ibrahim foundation said that her record of government was good.

Former international footballer George Weah will become Liberia's president next monthFormer international footballer George Weah became Liberia's president last month

Since 2006, Liberia, a country of 4.6 million, was the only nation to improve in every category of the foundation's Ibrahim Index of African Governance. The index monitors performance in African countries such as the provision of political, social and economic goods and services that citizens expect from the state.

Additional reporting: AP

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