OSLO: The Nobel Peace Prize 2019 has been awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who made peace last year with bitter foe Eritrea.
He was awarded the prize for his efforts to “achieve peace and international cooperation”. Abiy’s peace deal with Eritrea ended a 20-year military stalemate following their 1998-2000 border war.
He was named as the winner of the 100th Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, where he will receive the award in December. It is worth some nine million Swedish crowns
Though Africa’s youngest leader still faces big challenges, he has in under two years in power begun political and economic reforms that promise a better life for many in impoverished Ethiopia and restored ties with Eritrea that had been frozen since a 1998-2000 border war.
“We are proud as a nation,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement, hailing a “collective win for all Ethiopians, and a call to strengthen our resolve in making Ethiopia – the new horizon of hope – a prosperous nation for all.”
The Nobel Committee said Abiy had won the prestigious prize for “efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea.”
It said the prize was meant to recognize “all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions.”
Abiy had been bookmakers’ second favorite to win, behind the teenage Swedish climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg. Abiy, now 43, took office in April 2018 after the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn following three years of street unrest.
After becoming prime minister in April 2018, Mr Abiy introduced massive liberalising reforms to Ethiopia, shaking up what was a tightly controlled nation.
He freed thousands of opposition activists from jail and allowed exiled dissidents to return home. Most importantly, he signed the peace deal with Eritrea.
But his reforms also lifted the lid on Ethiopia’s ethnic tensions, and the resulting violence forced some 2.5 million people from their homes. His landmark achievement to date is securing peace with neighboring Eritrea.
He faces resistance to change from vested interests within his coalition and the possibility that violence, including in June when a rogue state militia leader killed the region’s state president and other top level officials, could escalate.
Abiy also faces high expectations from young Ethiopians who want jobs, development, and opportunities. The Nobel Peace Prize will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in his 1895 will.