Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Won the Nobel Peace Prize for His Work Ending the Border War with Eritrea
Oct. 11, 2019
“It is a prize given to Africa, given to Ethiopia."
The 100th Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, for his “efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation” after his administration’s rise to power helped alleviate 20 years of conflict following a border war with neighboring Eritrea.
The 43-year-old former intelligence officer , fluent in three of the country’s primary languages and with a mixed Christian and Muslim background, was elected in 2018 , and in his first 100 days as prime minister, he accomplished a lot. In June 2018 , he lifted the country’s state of emergency declared after the unexpected resignation of the previous leader that February. Alongside successfully pressing for the release of Ethiopians detained abroad, he has released thousands of political prisoners being held by the country, including journalists and opposition leaders.
On top of that, the Nobel committee credits him with endeavoring to end media censorship, legalizing outlawed opposition groups , “dismissing military and civilian leaders who were suspected of corruption, and significantly increasing the influence of women in Ethiopian political and community life.” In July of this year, he also led an initiative to plant 350 million trees in a day to reduce environmental degradation.
However, the act that is most celebrated and highlighted by coverage of his 2019 Nobel Peace Prize win is his role in ending the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Three months after taking office, Ahmed honored a peace agreement from 2000 that hadn’t been upheld, by relinquishing a border town to Eritrea. A few weeks later, he and Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki declared an end to the war between the two countries that started in 1998.
"Peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone," said Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chairwoman of the five-member committee that made the award. "When Prime Minister Abiy reached out his hand, President Afwerki grasped it and helped to formalize the peace process between the two countries."
The Norwegian Nobel Committee stated that 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.”
Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most-populous country, with more than 100 million people , is still, as described by the Washington Post, “one of the world’s most insecure countries , with more than 3 million people displaced from their homes due to ethnic strife and more than 1,000 people killed in 2018 .”
“Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s work is far from done. This award should push and motivate him to tackle the outstanding human rights challenges that threaten to reverse the gains made so far,” said Amnesty International secretary Kumi Naidoo in a statement. “He must urgently ensure that his government addresses the ongoing ethnic tensions that threaten instability and further human rights abuses.”
According to the Washington Post , despite his international accolades, some Ethiopians believe Ahmed’s proposed reforms could worsen tensions between ethnic groups, and in July he survived an assassination attempt .
"There is definitely a lot achieved already in reforming Ethiopia to a democracy, but there's also a long way to go. Rome was not made in a day, and neither will peace or democratic development be achieved in a short period of time,” said Reiss-Andersen.
“I am so humbled and thrilled,” Abiy said in a recorded call with the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. “It is a prize given to Africa, given to Ethiopia, and I can imagine how the rest of Africa’s leaders will take it positively to work on peace-building process in our continent.”