By The Washington Post
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Ahmed was awarded the prize “for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea”, said Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Nobel Committee, which decides the winner.
The 43-year-old former intelligence officer has ushered in an era of hope for peace and greater freedoms in Africa’s second-most populous country, which has long been governed by authoritarian regimes. Upon taking office in April 2018, Abiy initiated the release of thousands of political prisoners, unbanned various political organisations, prosecuted former officials accused of torture and vowed to move Ethiopia toward its first free, multiparty elections in 2020.
Abiy has also made bold foreign policy moves, including overtures to his counterpart in Eritrea, which seceded from Ethiopia in 1993 after decades of bloody war, formally ending a tense military standoff that had lasted 20 years. In neighbouring Sudan and South Sudan, both beset by civil conflict, Abiy personally spearheaded rounds of talks between opposing sides, re-establishing Ethiopia’s potential as a regional power broker.
Abiy’s recognition by the Norway-based Nobel Committee was reminiscent of President Barack Obama’s 10 years earlier. Like Obama at the time, Abiy is near the beginning of his term and has not yet fully implemented the broad reforms and peace deals he has set out to accomplish. But his initial decisions in office have prompted an outpouring of hope that those stated objectives will be achieved.
Ethiopia remains one of the world’s most insecure countries, with more than 3 million people displaced from their homes and more than a thousand killed in 2018, mostly due to ethnic strife. The country’s economy is dangerously weak, and tens of thousands of Ethiopians have become refugees in search of less dire conditions. Abiy’s proposed reforms are also seen by some in Ethiopia as likely to exacerbate ethnic tensions, and he has already survived one assassination attempt.