Just one year following his election as the fourth prime minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, 43, recently received the Nobel Peace Prize for his successful efforts in reviving talks with neighboring Eritrea after decades of conflict and separation between the two African nations. He has also been acknowledged for rolling out landmark reforms at unprecedented speed aimed at restoring freedoms in the continent’s second-largest nation, paving the way for the end of economic and political oppression.
Reminiscent of the Committee’s decision in 2009 when U.S. President Barack Obama, only nine months into his first term, garnered the Nobel Prize, Ahmed’s selection, which comes early in his hard-fought role as prime minister, serves to encourage and recognize his dogged determination to bring about peace at home and to reestablish international diplomatic relations with the world’s leading countries.
In addition, similar to the brouhaha on the international scene which ensued after Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Committee has faced increased criticism for choosing Ahmed because of the dreams and aspirations he has shared and which guide his decisions rather than the achievements to which he can lay claim.
Ahmed, a respected intellectual, the child of a Muslim father and Christian mother and a former United Nations peacekeeper in Rwanda and army intelligence officer — while the chosen candidate for the country’s powerful ruling party in the 2018 elections — he has faced the wrath of many within the Ethiopian establishment as well as their confederates who lead the often-brutal armed forces who care more about their similar interests than the welfare of the masses of people.
In fact, he has already survived at least one assassination attempt in June 2018 while attending a rally held in his support during which two people died and has recognized, even prior to his election, the internal struggles Ethiopia faces.
“We have only one option and that is to be united, not only cooperating and helping each other but uniting in order to live together. The other option is to kill each other. However, no sane person will opt for this. So, our option should be to trust one another, heal our wounds together and work together to develop our country.”
Most recently, in June 2019, two of his close allies were killed in what was described as an attempt to seize control of the Amhara region where violence has taken a deadly increase.
Abiy has also allowed, at least in theory, the allowance of opposition parties to freely campaign — a significant change in policy in light of the next elections which have been tentatively scheduled for May 2020.
Meanwhile, in an official statement, he explained what winning the Nobel Peace Prize means to him and to Ethiopia, referring to the award as a timeless testimony to the ideals of unity and cooperation.
“We invite all Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia to continue standing on the side of peace.”