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$5M prize given to Cape Verde's ex-leader

JOHANNESBURG -- A $5 million award for good leadership in Africa that was withheld for two years because of a lack of qualified candidates was finally bes-towed yesterday on Cape Verde's former president, Pedro Verona Pires, for promoting democracy and development on his archipelago.

The Mo Ibrahim prize committee said that Pires, during his decade in power, had helped lead the tiny nation off the west coast of Africa out of poverty. He left at the end of his second term in office earlier this year, dismissing the possibility of removing term limits from the constitution.

"Cape Verde is now seen as an African success story, economically, socially and politically," the prize citation said.

The prize was created in 2007 but this is only the third time it's been awarded. The committee said in other years no leaders met the criteria.

"It is recognition of my 50 years of wholesale and exclusive dedication to politics, and the causes of independence and democracy," Pires told news agency Lusa in Cidade da Praia, capital of the former Portuguese colony.

Pires, 77, was among the West African leaders who tried to mediate the political crisis earlier this year in Ivory Coast, where a bloody conflict killed thousands. -- AP

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