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The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize: Abiy Ahmed Ali

On October 11, The Nobel Peace Prize for 2019 was awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali for “his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea.” 

At the young age of 42, Abiy Ahmed was elected democratically as the fourth Prime Minister of Ethiopia in 2018 with the intention of creating peace with the neighboring country Eritrea, which had been in a precarious “No Peace, No War” treaty. The two countries’ conflict had stemmed from a two-year war from 1998 to 2000 over disputed territory, which then led to a continual border conflict. Abiy Ahmed ended this conflict in 2018 through persistent cooperation with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. They agreed upon conditions of peace, signing a five point Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship, officially resuming relations between the two countries. Abiy Ahmed famously said on July 8th during the 2018 Eritrean-Ethiopian Summit, “we have agreed to bring down the wall between us. Now there is no border between Ethiopia and Eritrea. That border line has gone today with the display of a true love… love is greater than modern weapons like tanks and missiles. Love can win hearts, and we have seen a great deal of it today here in Asmara. From this time on, war is not an option for the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia. What we need now is love.” 

The goals and actions of Abiy Ahmed during his time as Prime Minister are developing and maintaining love within his own country and within his fellow African countries. Abiy Ahmed took several steps toward creating a more peaceful and stable Ethiopia; he has released thousands of political prisoners, 7,600 in May of 2018 alone, and amended the nation’s laws that suppressed political activity in the same month. The following month, June, 2018, Abiy and the Oromo party ended the state of emergency that Ethiopian had been under for four months. Abiy addressed other issues, such as the system of ethnic federalism in Ethiopia that had been creating discord among ethnic groups who had been fighting over control of certain areas. He also created a new economic policy, opening up the Ethiopian stock exchange and introducing the privatization of state owned enterprises, which creates more opportunities for civilians and investors alike. With the economy open to foreign investors, Abiy updated the foreign policies regarding countries such as Somalia, Kenya, and Djibouti, creating equity in both the Djibouti and Eritrea ports and solving conflicts between Djibouti and Eritrea, as well as between Kenya and Somalia. 

The Norwegian Nobel committee commended Abiy Ahmed during their announcement speech saying, “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.” 

As the IB English 4 class concluded its unit on Somali writer Nuruddin Farah’s novel Maps, which deals with the conflicts of the 1977 Ogaden War between Somalia and Ethiopia, I asked Mr. Hover how he felt about the Ethiopian Prime Minister winning the Nobel Peace Prize. He said, “I feel that Prime Minister Abiy is very deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize because of his ability to wade into very difficult waters concerning competing national narratives in the horn of Africa. To be able to work with the Eritreans to develop peace and also to work with Somalia in developing peace over decade-long conflicts. I think it is right that the world recognizes the attempts being made by a leader in the horn of Africa to make substantial changes to the interactions of the people within that region. Also, I think it’s wonderful that he is opening up Democracy in the country and moving from a Socialist dictatorship into more democratic institutions; freeing political prisoners and allowing more political groups to participate in the process.” 

Abiy Ahmed received the award with gratitude not only for himself, but on behalf of all of Africa. He said, “I was so humbled and thrilled when I heard the news. Thank you very much. It is a pride given to Africa, given to Ethiopia, and I can imagine how the rest of Africa’s leaders will take it positively to work on [the] peace building process in our continent. I am so happy and so thrilled to hear the news.” 

The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize announcement concluded: “The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes that the Nobel Peace Prize will strengthen Prime Minister Abiy in his important work for peace and reconciliation. Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous country and has East Africa’s largest economy. A peaceful, stable and successful Ethiopia will have many positive side-effects, and will help to strengthen fraternity among nations and peoples in the region. With the provisions of Alfred Nobel’s will firmly in mind, the Norwegian Nobel Committee sees Abiy Ahmed as the person who in the preceding year has done the most to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019.” 


Prime Minister Abiy (left) and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki (right) opening the border in 2018 for the first time in 20 years. | PC: Aljazeera


Grace Jickling (279)


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