Oslo October 11, 2019 (CABNC) The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. He was awarded the prize for his efforts to “achieve peace and international cooperation”.
Ethiopia reached a peace deal with Eritrea last year, ending a 20-year military stalemate following their 1998-2000 border war. He was named as the winner of the 100th Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, where he will receive the award in December.
It is worth some nine million Swedish crowns (about £730,000; $900,000). A total of 301 candidates had been nominated for the prestigious award, including 223 individuals and 78 organisations.
There had been great speculation over who would win the prize, with climate activist Greta Thunberg widely tipped as the favourite. Under the Nobel Foundation’s rules, nomination shortlists are not allowed to be published for 50 years.
Since coming into office just over a year ago, Abiy Ahmed has made history and turned Ethiopian politics on its head.
Few had given him any chance of ascending to the prime minister’s office and even less had anticipated the sweeping reforms he would bring to a country that for years had been led by the iron fist of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front.
His most significant achievement was ending a bitter border dispute with Eritrea – he even went to the Eritrean capital, Asmara, receiving a rock star welcome – a sign of his popularity with the population weary of the two decades of hostilities between the two countries.
But also significant is the role he has played in bringing peace to the Horn of Africa region, from Sudan to Somalia and Djibouti, all which at some time have had border disputes.
Throughout he’s preached a message of Medemer – meaning togetherness or inclusiveness.
His Nobel win is yet another feather in the cap of this former intelligence chief.
The Nobel Committee has released the statement read out when it announced that Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Peace Prize:
“For his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea. An important premise for the breakthrough was Abiy Ahmed’s unconditional willingness to accept the arbitration ruling of an international boundary commission in 2002”
And there was praise for Eritrea’s president:
Peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone. When Prime Minister Abiy reached out his hand, President [Isaias] Afwerki grasped it, and helped to formalise the peace process between the two countries. The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes the peace agreement will help to bring about positive change for the entire populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea.”
But the Nobel committee also recognises there is still work to be done:
However, many challenges remain unresolved. Ethnic strife continues to escalate, and we have seen troubling examples of this in recent weeks and months. No doubt some people will think this year’s prize is being awarded too early. The Norwegian Nobel Committee believes it is now that Abiy Ahmed’s efforts deserve recognition and need encouragement.
Who is Abiy Ahmed?
After becoming prime minister in April 2018, Mr Abiy introduced massive liberalising reforms to Ethiopia, shaking up what was an extremely tightly controlled nation.
He is the country’s first Oromo leader – the ethnic group at the centre of nearly three years of anti-government protests, which left many dead following clashes with security forces and thousands arrested. He freed thousands of opposition activists from jail and allowed exiled dissidents to return home. Most importantly, he signed a peace deal with Ethiopia’s neighbour Eritrea, ending a two-decade conflict. But his reforms also lifted the lid on Ethiopia’s ethnic tensions, and the resulting violence forced some 2.5 million people from their homes.
Key facts: Abiy Ahmed
- Born in Agaro in southern Ethiopia on 15 August 1976 to an Oromo Muslim father and an Amhara Christian mother
- As a teenager in 1990, he joined the armed struggle against the Marxist Derg regime
- He has a doctorate degree in peace and security issues from Addis Ababa University and a master’s degree in transformational leadership from the University of Greenwich, London
- Speaks fluent Afan Oromo, Amharic and Tigrinya, as well as English
- 1995: Served as a UN peacekeeper in Rwanda
- 2007: Founded the Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency (INSA) and served as a board member of Ethio Telecom, Ethiopian TV
- 2010: Entered politics as an ordinary OPDO member before joining the party’s Executive Committee in 2015
- 2016: Briefly served as minister of science and technology
- 2018: Became prime minister
He laid out his political vision in comments made to the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement’s (SEPDM), a constituent party of the ruling coalition, in October 2017
“We have only one option and that is to be united, not only cooperating and helping each other but uniting in order to live together. The other option is to kill each other,” Mr Abiy is quoted as saying. “However, no sane person will opt for this. So, our option should be to trust one another, heal our wounds together and work together to develop our country.”
Why did he win?
The Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a statement that Mr Abiy was awarded for his “decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.”
“The prize is also meant to recognise all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions,” they said.
“Peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone. When Prime Minister Abiy reached out his hand, President Afwerki grasped it and helped to formalise the peace process between the two countries. The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes the peace agreement will help to bring about positive change for the entire populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea.”
The pace of change in Ethiopia has been so fast since Abiy Ahmed became prime minister in April 2018 that it is almost like observing a different country, and this is why he has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The reforms he has introduced were unthinkable not so long ago. For many years, the government seemed impervious to criticism from human rights groups that the state stifled free expression, sidelined and imprisoned opposition leaders and cracked down on protests.
It also appeared steadfast in its disagreement with a border commission ruling that was meant to end the two-decade conflict with neighbouring Eritrea. But all that has changed.
Prime Minister Abiy (l) initiated moves to meet Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki in order to secure peace Photo: Getty Images
In his first few months in power, Mr Abiy lifted the state of emergency, ordered the release of thousands of prisoners, allowed dissidents to return home and unblocked hundreds of websites and TV channels. He also ended the state of war with Eritrea by agreeing to give up disputed border territory, in the process normalising relations with the long-time foe.
African leaders are continuing to share their thoughts on the announcement that Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has won the Nobel Peace Prize.
The head of the African Union’s commission says Mr Abiy’s peace efforts “have given the world hope”:
Ghana’s president says the award is a “reminder to us all that peace is one of the most critical ingredients needed to make Africa successful”:
Liberia’s President George Weah has sent a congratulatory message calling winning the prize a “noble feat”:
The UN secretary-general has said Abiy Ahmed’s “vision helped Ethiopia and Eritrea achieve a historic rapprochement”:
Somalia’s president has sent his congratulations to Abiy Ahmed: