Tutu gets 'once-off' Ibrahim prize

By Drum Digital
04 October 2012

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was awarded a "once-off" special prize by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation on Thursday.

"In everything he stands for, everything he says, and everything he does, he displays a consistent obligation to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak the uncomfortable truths," said Mo Ibrahim in Johannesburg.

He said the special prize was motivated by the desire to create an extraordinary prize for an "outstanding civil society champion".

Ibrahim is a British mobile communications entrepreneur and billionaire. His foundation supports African leadership which improves the economic and social prospects of the people of Africa.

The special award, which carries a cash prize of US1 million (around R8,5 million), would be presented to Tutu in Dakar, Senegal, at the 2012 Ibrahim Forum.

In August, Tutu made headlines when he withdrew his attendance at a Discovery leadership summit, because former British prime minister Tony Blair was speaking at the same event.

At the time, Tutu said Blair's decision to support the United States' military invasion of Iraq, on the basis of unproven allegations of the existence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, was morally indefensible.

Last month, he called for Blair and former US president George Bush to face prosecution at the International Criminal Court for their roles in the 2003 United States-led invasion of Iraq.

Also last month, the retired Anglican Church's archbishop said democracy in South Africa had turned into a nightmare.

"But I ask myself, why were we in the struggle? The highest price was paid for freedom, but are we treating it as something precious?" he asked.

Ibrahim said on Thursday that Tutu's integrity deserved recognition.

"We hope this award will inspire the next generation."

Ibrahim said the award was not a replacement of the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement but rather "reflected the assessment" of the Achievement Prize.

The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement is awarded to African heads of state who have excelled in their reign in office. It aims to recognise good and responsible governance.

Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique was the first to be awarded the prize in 2007 while Botswana's Festus Mogae was awarded the prize in 2008.

Pedro Pires, the former president of Cape Verde, was the recipient in 2011.

No award was granted in 2009.

In 2007, former president Nelson Mandela became an Honorary Laureate for his role in South Africa and the African community.

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