In 1996, the German Africa Award was awarded to a woman for the first time: Elizabeth Kayissan Pognon, who played a crucial role in the democratization process of Benin, was honoured on behalf of many more women who have contributed significantly to the positive developments on the African continent.
After studying law and economics in Paris and Bordeaux, where she later qualified as a judge, she followed a remarkable career. After four years at the Court of Appeal in Cotonou, she held positions as President of the Labour Court and Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Professional Judges, the Administrative Court Chamber of the Supreme Court and the Ministry of Justice. In 1993, she was elected President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Benin.
Unlike her predecessors, she placed more emphasis on decisions concerning human rights violations and thus highlighted their importance. Moreover, the Constitutional Court made a decisive contribution to the success of the 1996 presidential elections by preserving political neutrality. In fact, the Court annulled some of the votes. Elizabeth Pognon, known as the “iron woman”, showed herself calm and level-headed even in politically sensitive and difficult situations. She always based her actions on objective criteria and ensured institutional control of power by holding office at the Constitutional Court. She thus made a decisive contribution to Benin’s democratic development.
The award was presented by Jutta Limbach, President of the Constitutional Court.