Former president Thabo Mbeki has been awarded a $50 000 worth African of the Year award for his work in Sudan. File Photo: Masi Losi

Dakar, Senegal - Former president Thabo Mbeki has been awarded the $50 000 worth Daily Trust African of the Year award, bankrolled by one of the continent’s biggest banks.

Announcing the award at a meeting of media leaders and entrepreneurs in Dakar, Senegal, on Thursday convened by the Nairobi based African Media Initiative (AMI), former Organisation of African Unity (now called African Union) secretary general Salim Ahmed Salim said Mbeki deserved the award, now in its fifth year, for his sterling work in helping resolve the Sudanese crisis.

Because of the rules of the coveted award, which forbid warning the recipient in advance, Mbeki was not present to accept it in person.

But he will get his cash from the sponsor of the award, the Nigerian based UBA bank, which calls itself “Africa’s global bank”.

Mbeki becomes the second South African to win the award after Danny Jordan, the 2010 World Cup organising front man clinched it that same year.

Other past winners of the US$50 000 award are Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege in 2008 for his reconstructive surgeries on rape victims in the war torn DRC.

The late Pan Africanist Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem of Nigeria won it post-humously in 2009 for his vocal voice in the struggle against poverty and undemocratic regimes in Africa while the former chief justice of Niger Salifou Fatima Bazeye won it last year for leading her court in unanimous rulings which rejected efforts by then President Mamadou Tandja to change the constitution and remain in office after the stipulated two terms .

The Advisory Panel, consisting of several prominent African academics, and chaired by Salim, said it normally looks for an ordinary African doing extraordinary things.

“But this year in our deliberations we have decided to choose an already prominent African, but someone who in the context of the Sudanese crisis, has made what we consider to be an extraordinary contribution (in Sudan),” said Salim.

Mbeki chairs the African Union High Level Implementation Panel on Sudan (AUHIP), which also includes former Burundi and Nigerian presidents Pierre Buyoya and Abdulsalami Abubakar respectively.

When Sudan and South Sudan came close to war in April this year over oil revenue disputes, among other quarrels after the split of the two nations, Mbeki and his panel immediately embarked on comprehensive rounds of negotiations resulting in the signing of nine agreements on September 27, 2012 between Sudanese leader Omar El-Bashir and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit. The agreements seem to have diffused the crisis hirtherto.

“Although a united Sudan could not be maintained, peace between the two neighbours ….is critical for the African continent..,” said Salim. “For his outstanding leadership of the Panel, for his persistent and consistent involvement in the peace process, and for the success of the panel in bringing Sudan and South Sudan back from the brink of war and consolidating a new start in relations, Thabo Mbeki is the 2012 African of the year.

The Daily Trust Africa of the Year Award was conceived by the Media Trust Limited, one of Nigeria’s biggest media conglomerates.

Apart from this award, the Media Trust Limited also organises annual dialogues to discuss critical African challenges. The dialogues attract prominent Africans including former heads of state and others like Winnie Madikizela Mandela and Mo Ibrahim in the past.

Independent Foreign Service