The Nobel Committee last week awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the barely tested, young Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed Ali. “It is now that Abiy Ahmed’s efforts deserve recognition and need encouragement,” the Committee declared. Men of goodwill would support the committee. It was in the same spirit it awarded the prize to America’s Barack Obama, six months into his eventful presidency. Even President Obama himself was startled. Obama turned out to be a great laureate. He resisted war temptations, campaigned for the reduction and control of nuclear weapons.
Abiy Ahmed’s record is that of an impatient, restless, reformer who came into the job with set ideas, which he did not hesitate to implement. Many observers think he did in his first 100 days what eluded the Ethiopian Empire and, later, the Ethiopian Republic, in the last 50 years. His pace was such that the Tigrai Online said that Abiy was “doing too much too fast.”
He emerged as Prime Minister on April 2, 2018 in fortuitous circumstances through an intricate leadership contest within the four-party governing coalition that constituted the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). His background was favourable, being the son of a Muslim Amhara father and an Evangelical Christian Oromo mother; he was equipped to play the peacemaker. He effortlessly crossed over the religious and ethnic divides to bring groups together. The Amhara and Oromo make up two-thirds of the Ethiopian populace.
His activism as Prime Minister began with his acceptance speech in which he promised political reforms. He promoted unity in the country; reached out to the Eritrean government to resolve the border conflict and met the opposition groups within the country and without. He won over the crisis-ridden country.
Abiy Ahmed set out to walk the talk and released thousands of political prisoners. He breathed new life into the political landscape, created an atmosphere of freedom never ever felt in Ethiopia. He pardoned and freed 7,600 Oromo prisoners. On May 29, 2018, the Ginbot 7 leader, Andargachew Tsege, who was facing the death penalty for terrorism, was released after pardon by the President along with 575 other detainees. On May 30, 2018, it was announced that the ruling party would amend the country’s “draconian” anti-terrorism laws.
On June 1, 2018, he announced that the government would seek an end to the state of emergency. Three days later, the necessary legislation was passed ending the state of emergency in Ethiopia. In June 2018, Abiy resolved to hand over the disputed border town of Badme to Eritrea thereby complying with the terms of the 2000 Algerian Agreement to bring an end to the tension between the two countries. Ethiopia had rejected the international boundary commission’s ruling. On June 20, 2018, during the national day celebration, the President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, accepted Abiy’s peace initiative and said he would send a delegation to Addis Ababa. Six days later, the Eritrean Foreign Minister, Osman Saleh Mohammed, visited, the first Eritrean high-level delegation to Ethiopia in more than two decades.
Ten days later, on July 8, 2018, Abiy became the first Ethiopia leader to meet with his Eritrean counterpart in more than two decades. The next day, the two signed a “Joint Declaration of Peace and Friendship” agreeing to re-establish diplomatic relations, reopening telecommunications, road, aviation links and facilitating Ethiopia’s use of the Ports of Massawa and Asseb. Abiy Ahmed’s Nobel Peace Prize was based on this achievement.He did much more. He went to Djibouti and obtained equity in the Port of Djibouti. He met Egypt’s General El-Sisi in Cairo where he brokered a meeting between the South Sudan’s warring leaders. His peace and co-operation gestures and outreaches encompassed the entire Horn of Africa and beyond.
In Sudan, he was helped out with the Sudanese Revolution in the negotiation between the military and the protesters. He was in Saudi Arabia to seek the release of Ethiopia’s richest man, Mohammed Al Moudi. He met with Uhuru Kenyatta and agreed on the construction of an Ethiopian logistic facility in Lamu Port. He has received about 22 notable awards from all over the world, including the African Union, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, the German State of Hesse, Chatham House, and TIME magazine. In his book, Medemer, launched on October 19, 2019, he explained what was driving him. We hope other African leaders would emulate him.