- Abiy Ahmed Ali sought to establish peace with longtime foe Eritrea after decades of conflict.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019 in recognition of his efforts to end his country’s long-running border conflict with Eritrea.
The Norwegian Nobel Institute on Friday also praised the “important reforms” that Abiy, Ethiopia’s leader since April 2018, has launched at home.
He was recognised for starting peace talks with Eritrea and establishing a peace agreement to end the long stalemate between the two countries.
“When Abiy Ahmed reached out his hand, President Isaias Afwerki grasped it and helped to formalise the peace process between the two countries,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.
“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 civil leaders who were suspected of corruption and significantly increasing the influence of women in Ethiopian political and community life.”
The office of the Ethiopian prime minister said: “We are proud as a nation” for winning the prestigious award.
A total of 301 candidates had been nominated for the prestigious award, including 223 individuals and 78 organizations.
2019 Nobel Peace Prize: Key Achievements of Abiy Ahmed Ali as PM
Abiy, 43, became Africa’s youngest leader when he was appointed a prime minister in March 2018. He immediately set about implementing a swathe of economic and political reforms aimed at opening up the economy to increased foreign investment and freeing up the political space for opposition parties.
Three months later, he made a historic visit to the Eritrean capital, Asmara, and met President Isaias Afwerki, to close a bloody chapter in the nation’s history: a 1998-2000 border war between the two states claimed as many as 100,000 lives. The nations have clashed sporadically since then and armed rebel groups in each others’ countries.
In a move that caused surprise in the long-turbulent Horn of Africa region, he said Ethiopia would accept a peace agreement with Eritrea, ending one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts.
Within weeks, Eritrea’s longtime leader, visibly moved, visited Addis Ababa and communications and transport links were restored. For the first time in two decades people could, long-divided families made tearful reunions.
The improving relations led to the lifting of United Nations sanctions on Eritrea, one of the world’s most reclusive nations. But Ethiopia’s reforms appear not to have inspired any in Eritrea, which has since closed border posts with its neighbour.
At home, Abiy offered one political surprise after another. He released tens of thousands of prisoners, welcomed home once-banned opposition groups and acknowledged past abuses. People expressed themselves freely on social media, and he announced that Ethiopia would hold free and fair elections in 2020. The country has one of the world’s few “gender-balanced” Cabinets and a female president, a rarity in Africa.
And for the first time Ethiopia had no journalists in prison, media groups noted last year.
The new prime minister also announced the opening-up of Ethiopia’s tightly controlled economy, saying private investment would be welcome in major state-owned sectors — a process that continues slowly.