THE Nobel Peace Prize has been given to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ‘for his efforts to achieve peace and international co-operation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.’
Announcing the prize in Oslo, Norway Friday morning Berit Reiss-Andersen, the Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said, ‘As Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed has sought to promote reconciliation, solidarity and social justice. However, many challenges remain unresolved. Some people will think this year’s prize is being awarded too early.’
But she said the committee ‘believes it is now that Abiy Ahmed’s efforts deserve recognition and need encouragement.’ Reiss-Andersen added that she hopes the prize can ‘strengthen Prime Minister Ahmed in his important work. Rome was not made in a day, and neither will peace and democratic development be achieved that quickly.
‘When Abiy Ahmed became Prime Minister in April 2018, he made it clear that he wished to resume peace talks with Eritrea. In close cooperation with Isaias Afwerki, the President of Eritrea, Abiy Ahmed quickly worked out the principles of a peace agreement to end the long “no peace, no war” stalemate between the two countries.’
Reiss-Andersen also praised Afwerki for working with Abiy to achieve peace. ‘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.’
On Abiy’s domestic reforms as leader, Reiss-Andersen said, ‘In Ethiopia, even if much work remains, Abiy Ahmed has initiated important reforms that give many citizens hope for a better life and a brighter future. He spent his first 100 days as Prime Minister lifting the country’s state of emergency, granting amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, discontinuing media censorship, legalising 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. He has also pledged to strengthen democracy by holding free and fair elections.’
But she accepted that several challenges remain in bringing peace and security to the country: ‘Ethiopia is a country of many different languages and peoples. Lately, old ethnic rivalries have flared up. According to international observers, up to three million Ethiopians may be internally displaced. That is in addition to the million or so refugees and asylum seekers from neighbouring countries. As Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed has sought to promote reconciliation, solidarity and social justice. However, many challenges remain unresolved. Ethnic strife continues to escalate, and we have seen troubling examples of this in recent weeks and months.’
The prize is worth about $900,000.
The Ethiopian Prime Minister’s office tweeted out a statement after Abiy Ahmed was named the Peace Prize winner. It said the office was ‘pleased to express our pride’ in the selection, adding that Abiy ‘has made peace, forgiveness and reconciliation key policy components of his administration.’