Unique African peace builder gets Nobel peace prize


The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Ethiopian Premier Minister Abiy Ahmed. Senior Professor Peter Wallensteen, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University, comments that these are unique political efforts that are awarded. 

Abiy Ahmed became Ethiopia’s leader only a year and half ago, April 2018.

He has not only found a way to bring the protracted conflict with neighboring Eritrea to a form of closure, his activities has also changed the political dynamics of the region and contributed to the democratization of Ethiopia. These are surprising, brave actions and they have resulted in tangible effects: peace agreements, freeing of political prisoners, a more open debate and promises of free elections by 2020.

Wallensteen observes that Abiy Ahmed belongs to Africa’s younger leader and that he has his Ph.D. in peace studies at the University of Addis Ababa.

–  It seems that he really is applying some of the insights from peace research!

The war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 1998-2000 belongs to the most devastating in Africa and often underestimated. It ended with a mediatated peace agreement in 2000 and the border conflict was solved through international arbitration in 2002. However, Ethiopia refused to implement the outcome, until Abiy Ahmed took office and entered into a new peace agreement with Eritrea. There may still be unsolved issues, but the relaxation of tension is evident, according to Wallensteen.

Abiy Ahmed has also been engaged as a peacebuilder within the region as a whole, notably in South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia. Much of this has been within the framework of the regional organization for the Horn of Africa, IGAD.

The democratic reforms in Ethiopia have opened space for healthy political action and debate. It has also resulted in local revolts and violence. There are groups opposing Abiy Ahmed’s approach but the Peace Prize may, Wallensteen thinks, help to strengthen his position when facing such challenges.

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Last modified: 2022-11-09