What causes bad governance

Köhler: Issoufou's constitutional departure "really worthy of a prize"

The Ibrahim Prize for Good Governance, also known as the Mo Ibrahim Prize, is the world's most highly endowed award for individuals: The award has been awarded for good governance in Africa by the Foundation of the Sudanese Philanthropist since 2007 becomes. Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was most recently honored in 2017.

This week the jury announced the sixth winner: the outgoing President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou, is to receive it. Issoufou did not run after two terms in office and thus enabled the first democratic change of power at the top of the Sahel state - at the end of February the ruling party's candidate, Mohamed Bazoum, was elected as his successor. Former Federal President Horst Köhler is the only German on the jury - DW spoke to him about the decision.

DW: After two terms in office, Mahamadou Issoufou did not run again for the presidential election in Niger. The runoff election took place just under three weeks ago, and Issoufou's successor has not yet been sworn in. The Ibrahim Prize goes to a president who is still in office. Is that a break with the rules of price?

Horst Köhler: No. A new president is duly elected democratically, Mohamed Bazoum. The handover is scheduled for April 2nd. Until then, Issoufou will continue to run the business. This is part of the democratic transition: management until the new president is sworn in.

Mahamadou Issoufou did not try to stay in power through a constitutional amendment

Last year there were again two examples of incumbents in Africa who could be elected for a third term due to constitutional changes, namely Alassane Ouattara in Ivory Coast and Alpha Condé in Guinea. So is the award for Issoufou to be understood as a message to other African heads of state?

Yes, as an important one. President Issoufou adhered to the state constitution, which only provides for two terms of office. In doing so, he paved the way for the first democratic change of government in the history of Niger. And I think that is really worth the award. For me that was a crucial point because it reminded me of a conversation with Nelson Mandela, whom I met in Maputo in 2006 as Federal President and asked what, in his opinion, was the most important thing for the development of Africa. His answer was clear, I say it in his words in English: "Rule of law and respect for the constitution." That was his answer. And that also shaped me during this discussion about the awarding of the prize.

The committee also recognized the increase in gross domestic product under Mahamadou Issoufou. Nevertheless, most Nigerians still do not feel this at all. Niger still ranks last on the United Nations Human Development Index. Does that matter to the price?

Extreme poverty in Niger poses a major political challenge. But it must also be said that reducing extreme poverty is incredibly difficult, for reasons that far exceed the sole authority and the scope for action of Nigerien politics. There is Islamist terror in the whole of the Sahel and thus also in Niger. There are the streams of refugees. Niger is a transit country and at the same time a host country for refugees, around 200,000 people have come from Mali and Nigeria alone and in Niger itself there are a quarter of a million internally displaced people due to drought. Another point is the effects of climate change with droughts and conflicts between herdsmen and farmers. And last but not least, there is international responsibility for climate change, arms and drug smuggling. It's not the Nigerians who caused this.

And of course, this consideration also includes the strong population growth with birth rates of almost seven children per woman, which make fighting poverty in Niger so difficult and also call for a new policy. All in all, that's my balance sheet, Niger is a country in need of enormous change. But Issoufou has achieved some good under the most difficult of circumstances. As I see it and the way the jury of the award saw it overall, it laid or reinforced the foundations for democracy, stability and development in Niger. And Issoufou, I do not want to forget that, campaigned intensively for regional and international cooperation in this fragile region.

From 2004 until his resignation in 2010, Horst Köhler was the ninth Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany

I would also like to tell you something that is not thought to be alarmist, but what is simply my concern: my impression is that there is a general risk that many countries in the Sahel zone will collapse. And Europe too must deal more closely with this danger.

According to Amnesty International, at least 17 activists were arrested last year under the government of Mahamadou Issoufou after protesting against corruption in the Ministry of Defense. Did the committee take such facts into account?

Yes of course. We also took that into account. And there were also reactions from the government to the corruption incidents in the Ministry of Defense. The defense minister was dismissed and I find it remarkable that not only civil society but also the judiciary in Niger protested the cover-up and the prosecution started an investigation.

At least activists were arrested anyway.

I assume that the rule of law process in Niger is not over and will continue.

Some actors in Nigerien civil society are negatively surprised. For example Maikoul Zodi, the coordinator of the "Tournons la Page" campaign, which works against corruption. He was one of the prisoners. He was released at the end of September after six months, but the allegations against him have not yet been dispelled. In the DW interview, he called the award a "mistake". How do you react to such criticism?

No, of course I take note of that. And of course, even when we get back together, the Awards Committee or the Mo Ibrahim Foundation as a whole, we will talk about it. We are not infallible. But overall, I don't want to leave any doubt that in all of the considerations I think that the Ibrahim Prize for Issoufou sends a signal, especially for civil society. Improvements are possible on the basis of participation, openness to freedom of expression. And that's why I'm not intimidated that we made a mistake that was going in the completely wrong direction. The Ibrahim Prize does not recognize infallibility either. He wants to stir up such discussions about good leadership and democracy, by no means stop them.

The Sudanese-British businessman Mo Ibrahim has earned billions as a mobile operator

The bravest and loudest protests against corruption and bad governance, as I know from my many encounters with Africans themselves, come from African civil society. A poll by the polling institute Afrobarometer showed that a majority of African citizens value democratic accountability even more than the mere efficiency of their governments. That makes me confident that governance in Africa is not on the losing side and that there are improvements on the way to democracy and the rule of law. Incidentally, if I remember correctly: Based on data from the "Ibrahim Index for African Governance", one can say that six out of ten Africans now live in a country that is better governed than it was ten years ago.

The Ibrahim Prize was first awarded in 2007, and now for the sixth time. How do you think the price has affected good governance in Africa over the past few years?

I believe that more and more governments have known that you are under public control and that improvements have therefore become possible. People like the former Rwandan Finance Minister Donald Kaberuka can no longer be dissuaded from the need to improve governance. In my opinion, the price will definitely ensure that citizens expect more from their governments and that they will then also formulate it publicly.

Donald Kabureka has chaired the "Global Fund" since 2019, previously he was President of the African Development Bank

My confidence in the subject of good governance comes not least from my experiences at the annual Ibrahim Governance Weekends: African people from politics, science, business, civil society, art and culture come together and discuss very openly. I have hardly seen this in western events. This openness, with which, above all, young people participate in issues such as governance. And that's why I am confident, because I also know that the African youth is taking on this topic and thus also assuming responsibility.

I see it as beneficial that the personalities who have been honored so far, i.e. the presidents who have received the award, continue to campaign for good governance. Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for example for empowerment of women or Festus Mogae from Botswana for the fight against AIDS. Others have set up a foundation for good governance. I think it all continues to work. It's not enough, but nobody can come back to it.

In addition to the Ibrahim Prize, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf also received the Nobel Peace Prize

It always works that way, and it is also said that the Ibrahim Prize is important to you. Why are you personally so committed to this award?

The award was created by an African, the Sudanese Mo Ibrahim. I have seen that the award has succeeded in bringing African issues and African voices together and thus making it clear that this is our own topic. We do not need to be constantly instructed about good governance from outside. And I also think it's good that the Africans are leading this discussion because it also makes it clear that we are no longer the teachers. And secondly, we also have examples of bad governance that has to change, in the west or in the north of the continent, in Europe. So there is nobody in a position to be able to teach others. And that's why I think it's very good that Africans are saying more and more clearly that the time for teachings from the north and from Europe is over.

The interview was conducted by Uta Steinwehr.

Collaboration: Fréjus Quenum

Transparency notice: The interview questions were given to the Federal President's office a. D. submitted in advance. On March 15th At the request of the office, Köhler's formulation on infallibility "in the sense of the originally intended statement" was changed. At first it said: "The Ibrahim Prize is also not characterized by infallibility."

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