A former leader of Cape Verde has been honored for his leadership of the archipelago nation, helping transform it from a single-party autocracy to multi-party democracy. The United States congratulates Pedro de Verona Rodrigues Pires on being awarded the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.
The prize, which brings with it an award of $5 million, was created by a Sudan-born businessman to celebrate excellence in African leadership. The funds also serve to encourage leaders of African nations to leave office after their terms expire, and build positive legacies on the continent rather than cling to power. Previous winners are Botswana's President Festus Mogae and Mozambique's Joaquim Chissano.
Former President Pires played a prominent role in helping his country win independence from Portugal in the 1970s and became its first prime minister. He was elected president in 1991, strengthened the economy, built up the country's tourism industry and led a building program that greatly improved its roads and other infrastructure. Rejecting suggestions that he change the constitution to stay in office, he stepped down in September after two terms.
Under former President Pires, Cape Verde is now widely seen as an African success story. His achievements in strengthening democracy, good governance and economic development make Cape Verde a model for other West African nations searching for an enduring democratic way forward.