Victoria Ngozi Ikeano
This year’s Nobel Peace prize won by an African, Ethiopian leader, Abiy Ahmed Ali offers some insights to Nigeria and indeed Africa, one of the most buffeted and crises-ridden continents, on peace building. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed follows in the footsteps of another great African peace maker – late Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa. Mandela was among the arrow heads of a peaceful transfer of political power from white minority rule to black majority rule and collapse of the wicked apartheid regime in South Africa. Despite his long incarceration (spending most of his adult life in prison), his inhuman treatment like subjecting him and others to electric shocks, etc., loss of some of his comrades in the struggle, Mandela came out of prison displaying a rare characteristic of the average person in today’s world. He showed no bitterness towards his oppressors. Instead he elected to work with his oppressors headed then by the apartheid prime minister P.W. Botha to change the system, enthrone democracy and chart a new course for South Africa; all of this peacefully.
Kudos should go also to late P.W. Botha who in the fullness of time came to the stark realisation that all human beings are fellow pilgrims here on earth; that his government’s repression of the black populace evidenced by their contemptible treatment, segregation, denial of many things including the curtailment of their inalienable free will is against the Laws of God; that all human beings are imbued by the Almighty Creator with same talents (the differences coming about by how each has developed those talents); that only in working together as partners despite all diversity, with love and justice as the common thread in all human relations, can sustainable peace, development and positive progress ensue. That should be the infallible standard for every family, country, guaranteeing peace and happiness for each person, peoples and nations… Therewith the scales seemingly dropped from both men’s eyes, Botha realising that he had wronged a people, Mandela not nurturing any hatred cum bitterness, forgave all injuries he personally suffered in the hands of Botha, both men resolved to build a new South Africa by peacefully dismantling the apartheid system which like the practice of slavery decades ago, is unworthy of a true humanity. Both men deserve commendation for the courage of their convictions. Now comes another Nobel Peace prize for another sitting African president. Here is how the awarding committee described the winner while announcing this year’s prize in Oslo.
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019 to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea. 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. When Abiy Ahmed became Prime Minister in April 2018, he made it clear that he wished to resume peace talks with Eritrea. In close cooperation with Isaias Afwerki, the President of Eritrea, Abiy Ahmed quickly worked out the principles of a peace agreement to end the long “no peace, no war” stalemate between the two countries. These principles are set out in the declarations that Prime Minister Abiy and President Afwerki signed in Asmara and Jeddah last July and September. An important premise for the breakthrough was Abiy Ahmed’s unconditional willingness to accept the arbitration ruling of an international boundary commission in 2002.
“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. In Ethiopia, even if much work remains, Abiy Ahmed has initiated important reforms that give many citizens hope for a better life and a brighter future. He spent his first 100 days as Prime Minister lifting the country’s state of emergency, granting amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, discontinuing media censorship, legalising outlawed opposition groups, dismissing military and civilian leaders who were suspected of corruption, and significantly increasing the influence of women in Ethiopian political and community life. He has also pledged to strengthen democracy by holding free and fair elections.
“In the wake of the peace process with Eritrea, Prime Minister Abiy has engaged in other peace and reconciliation processes in East and Northeast Africa. In September 2018 he and his government contributed actively to the normalisation of diplomatic relations between Eritrea and Djibouti after many years of political hostility. Additionally, Abiy Ahmed has sought to mediate between Kenya and Somalia in their protracted conflict over rights to a disputed marine area. There is now hope for a resolution to this conflict. In Sudan, the military regime and the opposition have returned to the negotiating table. On the 17th of August, they released a joint draft of a new constitution intended to secure a peaceful transition to civil rule in the country. Prime Minister Abiy played a key role in the process that led to the agreement.
“Ethiopia is a country of many different languages and peoples. Lately, old ethnic rivalries have flared up. According to international observers, up to three million Ethiopians may be internally displaced. That is in addition to the million or so refugees and asylum seekers from neighbouring countries. As Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed has sought to promote reconciliation, solidarity and social justice. However, many challenges remain unresolved. Ethnic strife continues to escalate, and we have seen troubling examples of this in recent weeks and months. No doubt some people will think this year’s prize is being awarded too early. The Norwegian Nobel Committee believes it is now that Abiy Ahmed’s efforts deserve recognition and need encouragement.
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes that the Nobel Peace Prize will strengthen Prime Minister Abiy in his important work for peace and reconciliation. Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous country and has East Africa’s largest economy. A peaceful, stable and successful Ethiopia will have many positive side-effects, and will help to strengthen fraternity among nations and peoples in the region. With the provisions of Alfred Nobel’s will firmly in mind, the Norwegian Nobel Committee sees Abiy Ahmed as the person who in the preceding year has done the most to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019”.
As history has shown over and over again, dialogue rather than violence is the better way to solve conflicts. The first and second world wars were resolved on the dialogue table. The ‘man of muscle’ is not really the strongest. Although he may be strong physically, he does not have inner strength from which derives real power which originates from Above, the Almighty. ‘Peace’ secured through violence or war is not enduring, is liable to breakdown sooner or later, is equivalent to peace of the graveyard and indeed brings in its wake other evils as hatred, distrust because it does not arise from mutual respect. The concept of master/servant among human beings is anathema to the human spirit even though the conflict germinating therefrom is often suppressed in subtle ways. The man who relies on violence and wars to get by is a fearful man, he is always afraid of his shadows and never at peace with himself.
As seen from Prime Minister Abiy’s citation, a man of peace sets to work immediately. The Ethiopian leader embarked on his peace initiatives as soon as he assumed office. Also such a person endeavours to engender peace not only in his own country but also in surrounding nations as the 2019 Nobel Peace prize winner is brokering peace between Eritrea/Djibouti, Kenya/Somalia and in Sudan Thirdly, as can be seen from the new Nobel laureate, the quest for peace should be followed with upholding of fundamental human rights, enthronement of democratic rights and governance, including recognizing the role of women in the development process as well as tackling corruption; not forgetting reconciliation. It is noteworthy that some states battling insurgency and banditry in northern Nigeria are exploring the option of dialogue and negotiation with the bandits. However, this seemingly new approach should be anchored on genuine mutual desire for peace, love and justice.
Ikeano a journalist, writes from Lafia via [email protected]