Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia's prime minister, wins 2019 Nobel peace prize
By Jason Burke and Jon Henley * – The Guardian
Award recognises efforts for peace, in particular in
resolving Eritrea border conflict
The prime minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, who forged a
peace deal with Eritrea last year, has won the 2019 Nobel peace prize.
The award recognised Abiy’s “efforts to achieve peace and
international cooperation, and in particular his decisive initiative to resolve
the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea”, said Berit Reiss-Andersen, the
Norwegian Nobel committee’s chair.
One of Abiy’s biggest achievements since coming to power in
April last year was the peace deal signed
three months later, which ended a nearly 20-year military stalemate with
Eritrea following their 1998-2000 border war.
Abiy has also pushed through reforms at home, dramatically
changing the atmosphere in what was regarded as a repressive state. His public
renunciation of past abuses drew a line between his administration and those of
his predecessors, as did the appointment of former dissidents and large numbers
of women to senior roles.
Abiy said: “I am so humbled and thrilled … thank you very
much. 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 the
peace-building process in our continent.”
Other figures who were considered in the running for this
year’s prize included the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg,
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Hong Kong pro-democracy activists.
Ninety-nine Nobel peace prizes have been awarded since 1901,
to individuals and 24 organisations. While the other Nobel prize laureates are
announced in Stockholm, the peace prize is awarded in the Norwegian capital,
Abiy, 43, a former military officer specialising in cyber
intelligence, has forged a reputation as a daring leader prepared to take risks
to tackle decades-old problems.
The peace deal with Eritrea surprised and delighted tens of
millions of people across east Africa. The conflict had
cost both countries dearly in lives and scarce resources, and was a brake on development
across much of the volatile region.
Eritrea, which has a population of about 4 million, gained
independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war.
The Nobel committee acknowledged that “peace does not arise
from the actions of one party alone”.
It said that when Abiy “reached out his hand, President
Afwerki [of Eritrea] grasped it, and helped to formalise the peace process
between the two countries”.
More recently Abiy played a key role in brokering a
political deal in neighbouring Sudan that halted a slide into violence after the
fall of the veteran dictator Omar al-Bashir, while retaining many of the
gains made by pro-democracy protesters.
“This milestone has opened up new opportunities for the
region to enjoy security and stability, and Prime Minister Ahmed’s leadership
has set a wonderful example for others in and beyond Africa looking to overcome
resistance from the past and put people first,” Guterres said.
Abiy, who often relies on bold personal initiatives and
charisma to drive change instead of working through government institutions, is
the country’s first leader from its largest ethnic community, the Oromo, who
have long complained of economic, cultural and political marginalisation.
In Addis Ababa, larged crowds have been welcoming home
exiled dissidents. Residents who once feared speaking publicly about politics
now talk of little else. Flags and symbols long banned by the ruling Ethiopian
People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) fly across the city.
Born in western Ethiopia, Abiy joined the resistance against
the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam as a teenager before enlisting in the armed
forces, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel. He has a doctorate in peace
and security studies.
After a stint running Ethiopia’s cyber intelligence service,
he entered politics eight years ago and rose rapidly up the ranks of the Oromo
faction of the EPRDF, which has historically been at odds with the Tigrayans.
Analysts say Abiy’s mixed Christian and Muslim background
and his fluency in three of the country’s main languages help him to bridge
communal and sectarian divides.
Dino Mahtani, a deputy director of International Crisis
Group’s Africa programme, said: “Abiy’s award is a reflection of the west’s
hope for transformational change in Ethiopia. But peace in Ethiopia is under
threat by outbreaks of violence following Abiy’s political liberalisation
project that, despite all its good intentions, has also contributed to
unleashing centrifugal political forces in the country.”
In an interview
with the Guardian shortly after Abiy survived an apparent assassination
attempt in 2018, one of his personal acquaintances said the leader was “always
looking ahead for the future”. Former colleagues said shelves of books on
religion, philosophy and science filled Abiy’s office.
“He is physically active and very well organised … He did
not have a secretary because he wanted his office to be accessible. His office
door was literally never closed,” one said.
*Jason Burke is the Africa correspondent of the Guardian,
based in Johannesburg, and reporting from across the continent. Jon Henley is the Guardian’s
Europe correspondent, based in Paris
The European Center for Peace and Development ( #ECPD
) -established by the United Nations University for Peace- is organizing a
global conference in the Serbian capital of Belgrade on October 25, 2019 on the
“The UN Agenda 2030 to transform the World”.
The conference will be held with the participation of a large number of
scientists, politicians, diplomats, international, regional and national
representatives, as well as a number of major institutions from Europe, the
United States, Canada, Japan, China, India and Tunisia
This year’s conference will be opened with a speech by H.E. Federico Mayor,
President of the European Center for Peace and Development (ECPD),
Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Ouided Bouchamaoui, Nobel Prize Laureate 2015,
and H.E. Prof. Dr Erhard Busek, Former Austrian Deputy Chancellor.
The conference will present the results of its discussions
and recommendations to the heads of state and government and foreign ministers
in the region, as well as senior officials of the United Nations and the
On the sidelines of the conference, the 7th World Youth
Forum will be held in the City Hall of Novi Sad, a city awarded the title of
the 2019 European Youth Capital under the slogan “Global Youth Forum
“Youth Mobilization to Redress the Present Trends”, with the presence of a
large number of young people from more than 80 countries from all continents.
Professor Federico Mayor, president of ECPD, says the United Nations adopted
the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at a summit of the General Assembly
in 2015, and outlined the fundamental transformations needed to address many of
the interconnected problems the world faces. The Sustainable Development Goals
integrate the economic, social and environmental challenges facing the world,
placing people at the center of the agenda, with the aim of leaving no one
The European Center for Peace and Development (ECPD) is
organizing its annual international conferences in a new framework on the
future of the world between globalization and regionalism, to discuss the
trends that the region should take to build more sustainable future for all
people around the world.