updated 10/19/2009 8:48:06 AM ET 2009-10-19T12:48:06

The backers of a $5 million prize celebrating good governance in Africa said Monday they cannot find anyone to award this year.

The Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership brings the winner $5 million over 10 years and $200,000 annually for life thereafter.

The prize-giving committee could not select a winner after considering "some credible candidates," said former Botswana President Ketumile Masire, a board member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

He said the foundation "noted the progress made with governance in some African countries, while noticing with concern recent setbacks in other countries." Committee members said they could not discuss their deliberations.

The prize, created in 2007 by Sudan-born billionaire Mo Ibrahim, is awarded to a democratically elected former African head of state or government who has left office in the past three years.

The past recipients are former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano and Botswana's former president, Festus Gontebanye Mogae.

Ibrahim was asked at a news conference Monday about politicians who meet the award criteria but were not chosen, including former South African President Thabo Mbeki, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-Ghanaian President John Kufuor.

Ibrahim said the foundation had "full respect" for those leaders. It was unclear why the committee, which is independent of the foundation's board, was unable to chose one for the prize.

"Some of these people are personal friends," said Ibrahim, who founded the African telecommunications company Celtel International.

This year's prize committee was chaired by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and included Nobel peace laureate Martti Ahtisaari of Finland and former Irish President Mary Robinson.

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