Nobel Peace Prize: Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed wins

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The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize 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”.

Mr 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 (about £730,000; $900,000).

A total of 301 candidates had been nominated for the prestigious award, including 223 individuals and 78 organisations.

There had been great speculation over who would win the prize, with climate activist Greta Thunberg widely tipped as the favourite. Under the Nobel Foundation’s rules, nomination shortlists are not allowed to be published for 50 years, and the organisation says any speculation ahead of the announcement is “sheer guesswork”.

What has Abiy Ahmed done?

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.

Why did he win?

Mr Abiy was honoured for his “decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea”, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

“The prize is also meant to recognise all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions,” they said.

“Peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone. When Prime Minister Abiy reached out his hand, President Afwerki grasped it, and helped to formalise the peace process between the two countries. The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes the peace agreement will help to bring about positive change for the entire populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea.”

Mr Abiy’s office said the award was testimony “to the ideals of unity, cooperation and mutual coexistence that the Prime Minister has been consistently championing.”

What is his background?

Mr Abiy was born in southern Ethiopia’s Jima Zone in 1976 to an Oromo Muslim father and an Amhara Christian mother.

He has several degrees, including a doctorate degree in peace and security issues from Addis Ababa University and a master’s degree in transformational leadership from the University of Greenwich, London.

As a teenager, he joined the armed struggle against the former Dergue regime and eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, focusing on intelligence and communications services.

In 1995, he served as a UN peacekeeper in Rwanda.

During the 1998-2000 border dispute with Eritrea, he led a spy team on a reconnaissance mission into areas held by the Eritrean Defence Forces.

He joined politics in 2010, becoming a member of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization, before being elected as a member of parliament.

His tenure in parliament coincided with clashes between Muslims and Christians. He devised a lasting solution to the problem by setting up a “Religious Forum for Peace”.

He is currently the youngest head of government in Africa.

Who are previous Nobel Peace Prize winners?

Former US President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples”.

Other notable Nobel Peace Prize winners include former US President Jimmy Carter (2002), child education activist Malala Yousafzai (shared 2014), the European Union (2012), the United Nations and its then-general-secretary, Kofi Annan, (shared 2001) and Mother Teresa (1979).

What do winners receive?

The recipient of each Nobel prize receives three things:

  • a Nobel diploma, each of which is a unique work of art
  • a Nobel medal, which has differing designs
  • a cash prize of 9m Swedish krona – which is split between winners when there is more than one. They have to deliver a lecture to receive the money

The prizes are presented at ceremonies on 10 December in Stockholm and Oslo.

Main image copyright: Reuters

First published 11.10.19: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-50013273

 

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