Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed wins Nobel peace prize

  • FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 file photo, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at the European Council headquarters in Brussels. The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize was given to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday Oct. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, file)

  • FILE - In this Sunday July 15, 2018 file photo, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, second left, and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, center, hold hands as they wave at the crowds in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Once official rivals, the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea have embraced warmly to the roar of a crowd of thousands at a concert celebrating the end of a long state of war. The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize was given to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday Oct. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, File)

  • FILE - In this Saturday, July 14, 2018 file photo, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, center left, is welcomed by Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, center right, upon his arrival at Addis Ababa International Airport, Ethiopia. Once official rivals, the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea have embraced warmly to the roar of a crowd of thousands at a concert celebrating the end of a long state of war. The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize was given to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday Oct. 11, 2019. (AP Photo Mulugeta Ayene, File)

  • Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairwoman of the five-member Norwegian Nobel Institute, announces the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, in Oslo, Norway, Friday Oct. 11, 2019. The 2019 Nobel Peace has been awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Ahmed was cited for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea. (Stian Lysberg Solum/NTB Scanpix via AP)

  • FILE - In this Monday, Dec. 10, 2018 file photo, a bust of the Nobel Prize founder, Alfred Nobel on display at the Concert Hall during the Nobel Prize award ceremony in Stockholm. Controversy stalks the Nobel prizes for peace and literature in a way it rarely does for science. The revamped panel at the Swedish Academy who will hand out the Nobel literature prizes Thursday Oct. 10, 2019, for both 2018 and 2019 would relish arguments about the winners, rather than intrigue about the #MeToo scandal that forced the institution to suspend the prize last year. (Henrik Montgomery/Pool Photo via AP, File)

Published: 10/11/2019 9:59:55 PM
Modified: 10/11/2019 9:59:41 PM

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019 in recognition of his efforts to end his country’s two-decade 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. The prize comes as Abiy faces pressure to uphold the sweeping freedoms he introduced, and critics warn that his ability to deal with rising domestic unrest may be slipping.

The Nobel committee said some people may consider it too early to give him the prize, but “it is now that Abiy Ahmed’s efforts need recognition and deserve encouragement.”

The award, the 100th Nobel Peace Prize, reflects the committee’s taste for trying to encourage works in progress.

Abiy said he was “humbled and thrilled.”

In a call with the Nobel committee, he laid out his hope that the award will be taken “positively” by other African leaders “to work on (the) peace-building process on our continent.”

Abiy, 43, took office after widespread protests pressured the longtime ruling coalition and hurt one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Africa’s youngest leader quickly announced dramatic reforms and “Abiymania” began.

On taking office, Abiy surprised people by fully accepting a peace deal ending a 20-year border war between the two East African nations that saw tens of thousands of people killed. Ethiopia and Eritrea had not had diplomatic ties since the war began in 1998, with Abiy himself once fighting in a town that remained contested at the time of his announcement last year.

Within weeks, the visibly moved Eritrean president, Isaias Afwerki, visited Addis Ababa and communications and transport links were restored. For the first time in two decades, 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 do not appear to have inspired any in Eritrea, which has since closed border posts with its neighbor.

The Nobel committee also pointed to Abiy’s other efforts toward reconciliation in the region — between Eritrea and Djibouti, between Kenya and Somalia, and in Sudan.

Ethiopia is Africa’s second-largest country in terms of population with about 110 million people.

Eritrea, which has a population of about 4 million, gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war. About 80,000 people died in a war between the two countries from 1998-2000.

The Nobel committee acknowledged that “peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone.”

It said that when Abiy “reached out his hand, President Afwerki grasped it, and helped to formalize the peace process between the two countries.”

It added that it “hopes the peace agreement will help to bring about positive change for the entire populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea.”

The government of Eritrea did not immediately comment, but its ambassador to Japan tweeted congratulations, adding: “People of #Eritrea & #Ethiopia with blood, sweat & tears have won again over evil.”

Leaders elsewhere in Africa, including those of Liberia, Ghana and neighboring Somalia, responded with praise and encouragement. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he has often stated that “winds of hope are blowing ever stronger across Africa” and that Abiy was one of the main reasons why.

The U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia joined in the congratulations, noting the “incredible progress” made under Abiy.




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