Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed | Wikipedia Commons
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed | Wikipedia Commons
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New Delhi: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for helping end the 20-year old Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict.

The Norway-based Nobel Committee has lauded Ahmed’s peace efforts across the Horn of Africa, and especially his role in resolving his country’s border dispute with Eritrea.

Ahmed responded on Twitter, saying: “My deepest gratitude to all committed and working for peace. This award is for Ethiopia and the African continent.”

Ahmed was chosen from among a total of 301 candidates, including 223 individuals and 78 organisations, according to a BBC report.

ThePrint explores why Ahmed was chosen for the prestigious award.

Who is Abiy Ahmed?

Ahmed, a 43-year-old former army intelligence officer is the fourth prime minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

He became PM in April 2018, and since then, has launched a series of major political, social, and economic reforms in the tightly controlled Ethiopia.

“He freed thousands of opposition activists from jail and allowed exiled dissidents to return home. Under him, several women have also been appointed to prominent positions,” said the BBC report cited above.

But though Ahmed has garnered a lot of global acclaim for the reforms, he has been awarded the Nobel for something he achieved a few months after getting into power — signing a peace deal with Eritrea.

He also acted as a mediator between Eritrea and Djibouti, and intervened in Sudan following the ouster of dictator Omar al Bashir.

Also read: Abiy Ahmed has won the Nobel Peace Prize, but Ethiopia still faces big challenges

The Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict

Following a 30-year war, Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia in 1991. But a contentious border dispute had continued to plague their relationship.

The unresolved dispute led to lethal fighting along the border in the late 1990s, and resulted in the deaths of thousands of Ethiopians and Eritreans.

Though the two countries reached a peace deal in 2000, the border remained disputed until Ahmed struck a deal with the Eritrean government in 2018.

“To achieve this, Mr Abiy promised to hand over fiercely contested border territories, in particular the town of Badme, the focus of heavy fighting from 1998-2000, in which tens of thousands had lost their lives,” noted another BBC report.

This not only ended the hostility between the two countries, but has also allowed the relatively free movement of people and goods across the border. Moreover, it has allowed long-separated families to be united.

“What has been achieved in terms of normalising relations between the two countries is enormous,” Awol Allo, an Ethiopian academician, told The Financial Times.

“I can’t really think of anything more important for families that were splintered as a result of that senseless war to suddenly have that hope, that opportunity.”

FATF grey-list

As a consequence of Ahmed’s major liberalising economic reforms, Ethiopia is now being considered one of the major economic frontiers of the global economy.

The country continues to be on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), though it has made substantial progress in implementing the some of the required reforms.

Nobel Committee acknowledges criticism of Ahmed

Ahmed’s achievements have been impressive, but the Ethiopian leader has some critics. And the Nobel Committee seems to be aware of these criticisms.

“No doubt some people will think that this year’s prize is being awarded too early,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, who is the chair of the Nobel committee.

Ahmed faces two main criticisms: First, that the peace deal has made no difference to Eritrea’s one-party authoritarian rule. And since the border between has opened, thousands of Eritreans have fled to Ethiopia.

Second, his political reforms in Ethiopia have had an adverse effect. “His political reforms have seen a rise in intercommunity violence across the country of 105 million people as Ethiopia’s 80-odd ethno-linguistic groups have adjusted to their new freedoms of expression and mobilisation,” noted a Financial Times report.

“In total, more than 2.9 million had been displaced by violence by December last year, according to international estimates.”

India-Ethiopia relations

Given Ethiopia’s location on the eastern coast of the African continent, it has had trade and cultural ties with India going back over 2,000 years.

Modern India and Ethiopia established a diplomatic relationship in 1952, and in more recent times, Ethiopia has supported India’s induction into the United Nations Security Council.

Also read: World’s most ‘dangerous’ countries to travel to aren’t that scary


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