Nigerien President Issoufou gets 2020 Mo Ibrahim Prize

March 22, 2021

Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou, set to step down after two terms in office, was last week awarded the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. [see:https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/a4b07020-ced4-11e7-8d59-7dc11e986512 ].

The chair of the Mo Ibrahim Prize Committee, Festus Mogae, a former president of Botswana and himself a recipient of the prize, said that Issoufou had “led his people on a path of progress.” The committee noted that Issoufou had faced “severe political and economic issues.” Niger in the best of times is one of the poorest countries in the world, facing recurrent, severe drought. It has been buffeted by jihadi terrorism, a host of economic issues, and COVID-19. Unlike many other African presidents, Issoufou did not try to remain in office beyond his constitutionally mandated two terms by amending the constitution or pursuing other extralegal means. Since its inception in 2007 the Ibrahim Foundation has granted the award to only seven other presidents. On eight occasions it found no eligible candidate. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/12/mo-ibrahim-prize-2017-to-ellen-johnson-sirleaf/]

However, there is some criticism of this choice. e.g. from Sebastian Elischer, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Florida, who writes that:

During his time in office, his regime has had a heavy-handed reaction to dissent. It also hasn’t upheld the law. In 2017 students protesting for better living and studying conditions were arrested and injured; there were even some deaths. The same is true for broader protests denouncing corruption and calling for improved living conditions. Hundreds of civil society activists found themselves in prison without due process…

In addition, Amnesty International identified a recent surge in human rights violations in Niger. For instance, journalists reporting critically on the government’s war against Boko Haram or on corruption within the state bureaucracy frequently faced expulsion or arbitrary arrest. When Issoufou took office in 2011, the World Press Freedom Index ranked Niger 29th worldwide. In 2020 Niger occupies position 57. This constitutes a significant decline.

https://www.cfr.org/blog/nigers-mahamadou-issoufou-awarded-mo-ibrahim-prize-excellence-african-leadership

https://theconversation.com/why-its-a-big-surprise-that-the-african-leadership-prize-went-to-nigers-issoufou-157291

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