OSLO (AFP) – Hailed as a visionary and reformer, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday for his efforts to resolve the long-running conflict with Eritrea.
Abiy was honoured “for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea,” the Nobel Committee said.
The award is seen as a welcome boost for Abiy as he faces worrying inter-community violence ahead of his country’s upcoming parliamentary elections in May 2020.
“We are proud as a nation,” his office wrote on Twitter, praising the award as a “timeless testimony to the… ideals of unity, cooperation and mutual co-existence that the Prime Minister has been consistently championing”.
Since taking office in April 2018, the 43-year-old has aggressively pursued policies that have the potential to upend his country’s society and reshape dynamics beyond its borders, after years of civil unrest.
On July 9, 2018, following a historic meeting in Eritrea’s capital Asmara, Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki formally ended a 20-year-old stalemate between the countries in the wake of the 1998-2000 border conflict.
Abiy swiftly released dissidents from jail, apologised for state brutality, and welcomed home exiled armed groups.
Africa’s youngest leader has instilled a certain optimism in a region of Africa marred by violence.
“I have said often that winds of hope are blowing ever stronger across Africa. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is one of the main reasons why,” United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres said upon learning of the Nobel Committee’s decision.
The peace agreement with Eritrea 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”.