Does Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed deserve the Nobel Prize for Peace?


Ethiopian {Prime Minister} Abiy Ahmed is because of obtain this yr’s Nobel Prize for Peace at a ceremony in Norway’s capital, Oslo.

Upon asserting its resolution in October, the Norwegian Nobel Committee hailed Abiy’s pursuit of home reforms and efforts to realize peace and cooperation within the area since assuming workplace in April 2018.


The information prompted an outpouring of nationwide satisfaction domestically – many Ethiopians switched their profile footage to Abiy’s – whereas leaders from world wide joined the refrain of worldwide reward for the 43-year-old chief.

However Abiy’s awarding, to happen on Tuesday, additionally sparked questions whether or not he deserved the popularity – particularly so early in his premiership.

Peace with Eritrea

Among the many sequence of accomplishments cited by the committee have been Abiy’s efforts to assist resolve a maritime territory dispute between Kenya and Somalia, in addition to his mediation efforts to carry collectively leaders in each Sudan and South Sudan.

But it surely was, undoubtedly, his historic rapprochement with neighbouring Eritrea that led to him turning into the primary Ethiopian to win a Nobel Prize.

Simply two months after turning into prime minister, Abiy, a former intelligence officer, introduced that Ethiopia would totally settle for the phrases of a peace settlement with longtime foe Eritrea.

Greater than 80,000 individuals have been killed and a whole bunch of hundreds have been pressured from their houses throughout a two-year battle that broke out between the neighbours in 1998. A United Nations-backed peace deal in 2000 awarded the disputed border territories to Eritrea, however the settlement was by no means carried out and skirmishes continued.

Abiy’s peacemaking efforts with longtime Eritrean {President} Isaias Afwerki formally ended a two-decade navy standoff, resulting in the re-establishment of diplomatic ties and the resumption of communication traces and air journey.

Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki Receives A Key From Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed During The Inauguration Ceremony Marking The Reopening Of The Eritrean Embassy In Addis Ababa

Abiy has made a hero out of Isaias, in accordance with Eritrean human rights activists [Tiksa Negeri/Reuters]

Nonetheless, key points remained unresolved. 

“Eritrea’s borders stay closed, the border between the 2 nations has not been demarcated, and the exodus of Eritreans fleeing the brutal restrictions imposed by their authorities continues,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) mentioned in a press release after the announcement of Abiy’s win.

For Selam Kidane, director of Launch Eritrea, a UK-based group campaigning in opposition to non secular persecution within the Purple Sea nation, Abiy’s Nobel award got here as a shock.

“I didn’t count on Abiy to win. Sure, they signed a peace settlement however life has not modified for Eritreans,” Selam instructed Al Jazeera.

“What this award does is it whitewashes the picture of an oppressor, Isaias Afwerki. It solely works to rehabilitate Isaias’ picture,” she added.

Isaias has dominated Eritrea since gaining independence from Ethiopia within the early 1990s. Eritrea, a one-party state, has by no means held nationwide elections and is the world’s most censored nation, in accordance with Committee to Shield Journalist (CPJ), a media watchdog. An unknown variety of journalists are held in jail with out trial.

On the identical time, Eritrea’s extensively criticised indefinite navy service has pushed many, particularly the youth, to flee at an alarming fee – usually risking their lives within the course of.

Based on the UN refugee company, Eritrea, a nation of fewer than 5 million individuals, was final yr the ninth largest nation of origin of refugees, with greater than 500,000.

“Sadly, the state of affairs in Eritrea is unpalatable. Abiy made a hero out of Isaias, which is a disgrace,” Selam mentioned.

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki Waves Upon His Arrival For A State Visit To Sudan At The Khartoum Airport

Isaias has dominated Eritrean for the reason that nation gained independence from Ethiopia within the early 1990s [Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters]

Al Jazeera contacted the committee to ask whether or not it thought-about the human rights state of affairs in Eritrea earlier than awarding the prize to Abiy. In response, the committee despatched the October assertion asserting the Ethiopian chief’s win, which it didn’t tackle these human rights issues.

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes the peace settlement will assist to result in optimistic change for the whole populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea.”

However regardless of the state of affairs in Eritrea, Awol Allo, a lecturer in legislation at the UK’s Keele College, mentioned the committee was proper to award the prize to the Ethiopian chief.

“The issues of Eritrean human rights and pro-democracy activists are comprehensible, however there is no such thing as a suggestion that the Nobel Prize was awarded to Abiy for altering the political dynamics inside Eritrea itself,” he mentioned.

Based on Awol, Abiy deserves the award “for saving a nation of 108 million individuals from the precipice of an financial and political explosion”.

Abiy is Ethiopia’s first prime minister hailing from the Oromo group, the nation’s largest ethnic group which spearheaded mass anti-government protests that pressured his predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn, to step down. 

However as Ethiopia gears up for essential common elections subsequent yr, the image on the home entrance is way from rosy.

Ethnic violence has been on the rise since Abiy got here to energy, whereas native authorities and safety sharply deteriorated, in accordance with HRW. Greater than two million individuals are at the moment internally displaced throughout the nation on account of battle, together with 1.four million within the first half of 2018, greater than anyplace else globally, the rights group mentioned in April.

Individually, whereas the Nobel committee praised Abiy for “discontinuing media censorship”, rights teams have criticised authorities plans to cost journalists and media organisations for his or her reporting on the navy.

In a press release days earlier than after Abiy’s win, Amnesty Worldwide acknowledged the reforms undertaken by his authorities however referred to as on the prime minister to revise the nation’s anti-terrorism legislation to keep away from rolling again progress made since he took workplace.

“The usage of Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism proclamation to arbitrarily arrest journalists is totally out of step with reforms witnessed within the nation,” Seif Magango, Amnesty Worldwide’s deputy director for East Africa, mentioned in early October.

“This legislation should be revised to align with worldwide requirements and should not be used to harass journalists.”

Somalia bloodshed

Elsewhere, Ethiopian troops have been accused of utilizing deadly power in December final yr in opposition to unarmed protesters in neighbouring Somalia throughout a regional election marketing campaign. No less than 11 individuals, together with a legislator, died through the clashes.

“Somali and Ethiopian safety forces in Baidoa should chorus from utilizing deadly power in opposition to protesters, together with forward of, throughout and after the South West regional presidential election scheduled for 19 December. Nobody ought to should die for merely expressing their views,” Sarah Jackson, Amnesty Worldwide’s deputy director for East Africa, the Horn and the Nice Lakes, mentioned.

In the meantime in October, amid rising tensions with Egypt over a large dam on the Nile, Abiy defended his Nobel win throughout an tackle to Ethiopia’s parliament.

“Some people are discovering it onerous to simply accept in regards to the Nobel Peace Prize. It is already given to Abiy, and it will not be taken away from him. That is it! It is a lifeless difficulty!” Abiy mentioned.

“Now, our focus ought to be on easy methods to inspire different youths to win the prize. Individuals who proceed to dwell on this are losing their time,” he added.

Abiy is just not anticipated to carry a information convention after receiving the award in Oslo’s Metropolis Corridor on Tuesday, nor tackle the media in every other occasion whereas in Norway’s capital, enabling him to keep away from questions by journalists. 

Observe Hamza Mohamed on Twitter: @Hamza_Africa