Ethiopia’s reformist PM Abiy Ahmed wins Nobel peace prize

Ethiopia’s reformist PM Abiy Ahmed wins Nobel peace prize

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to a dynamic young African leader whose sweeping reforms and surprising embrace of a bitter rival have been praised as an inspiration to the continent and a hopeful counterpoint to strongman movements far beyond it.

Now the task for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is reining in the ethnic violence that followed the loosening of repressive controls, and resisting any urge to crack down. “He deserves it and the new challenge is keeping it,” one outspoken African activist, Nigerian Shehu Sani, said of the award.

Abiy, a favourite to win despite speculation about young climate activist Greta Thunberg, told the Nobel committee he was humbled and thrilled to receive its 100th peace prize, calling peace “a rare commodity in our region.” He hoped the award would encourage other African leaders.

His countrymen, even some critics, celebrated. “‘We are proud as a nation!!!” his office said.

The 43-year-old prime minister has embraced the concept of “medemer,” a term in Ethiopia’s Amharic language that means unity and inclusivity, and has lived it. The son of a Muslim and an Orthodox Christian, and of mixed ethnic heritage, he is a symbol of what he would like to achieve in a country of some 80 ethnicities and some 110 million people. That fractious mix could also bring him down.

“No doubt some people will think this year’s prize is being awarded too early,” the Nobel committee said. But “it is now that Abiy Ahmed’s efforts deserve recognition and need encouragement.”

Abiy seemed to come out of nowhere, taking office in early 2018 after widespread protests pressured Ethiopia’s longtime ruling coalition and hurt one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Within weeks, Africa’s youngest leader shocked the long-turbulent Horn of Africa region by fully accepting a peace deal ending a 20-year border war with neighbouring Eritrea that saw some 80,000 people killed.

Suddenly, one of the world’s longest-running conflicts was ending.

The visibly moved Eritrean president, Isaias Afwerki, soon visited Addis Ababa and diplomatic, communications and transport links were restored. For the first time in two decades, long-divided families made tearful reunions.

The Nobel committee cited that peacemaking in awarding Abiy the prize and acknowledged that “peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone.” When Abiy “reached out his hand, President Afwerki grasped it.”

The government of Eritrea, still one of the world’s most closed-off nations, did not immediately comment, and the country has shown no sign of following Ethiopia’s reforms. The Nobel committee said it hoped the award would bring positive change for all in both countries. It also noted Abiy’s other efforts toward reconciliation in the region — between Eritrea and Djibouti, between Kenya and Somalia, and in Sudan.

At home, Abiy has offered one surprise after another. He released tens of thousands of prisoners, welcomed home once-banned opposition groups and acknowledged past abuses. People expressed themselves freely on social media, and he announced that Ethiopia would hold free and fair elections in 2020. He named one of the world’s few “gender-balanced” Cabinets and a female president, a rarity in Africa.

And for the first time Ethiopia has no journalists in prison, media groups noted last year. The progress has been “incredible,” the United States said Friday.

The new prime minister also announced the opening-up of Ethiopia’s tightly controlled economy, saying private investment would be welcome in major state-owned sectors — a process that continues slowly.

But while Abiy became a global darling, troubles arose at home.

A grenade was thrown at him during an appearance in the capital last year, and weeks later a large group of soldiers confronted him in his office in what he called an attempt to derail his reforms. In a display of the brio that has won Abiy widespread admiration, the former military officer defused the situation by dropping to the floor and joining the troops in push-ups.

More troubling are Ethiopia’s deadly ethnic tensions as people once stifled by repression now act on long-held grievances. Some 1,200 people have been killed and some 1.2 million displaced in the greatest challenge yet to Abiy’s rule. Some observers warn that the unrest will grow ahead of next year’s election.

Ethiopia’s government also has begun reaching for some of the controls it had abandoned. Arbitrary arrests have been reported and internet shutdowns have returned, and the prime minister has defended them in the interest of calming unrest, saying internet service is “neither water nor air.”

The Nobel committee acknowledged that “many challenges remain unresolved.” And human rights and humanitarian groups moved quickly to urge Abiy to “continue to be brave,” as the Norwegian Refugee Council said.

Despite the concerns, global praise poured in. “I have said often that winds of hope are blowing ever stronger across Africa. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is one of the main reasons why,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

At home, some Ethiopians urged their fast-moving young leader to do even more. “This prize is the begging of him to do much better than now,” said one resident of the capital, Abebe Arega.

So far this week, 11 Nobel laureates have been named. The others received their awards for their achievements in medicine , physics , chemistry and literature . The economics award is to be announced on Monday.

With the glory comes a 9-million kronor ($918,000) cash award, a gold medal and a diploma to be awarded at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway, on Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. Even though the peace prize is awarded in Norway, the amount is denominated in Swedish kronor.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed eight additional virus-deaths Monday afternoon including one in central zone. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
New record: Red Deer at 236 active COVID cases

One more death in central zone reported

Red Deer firefighters look for coloured tags on downtown fire hydrants to determine water pressure levels before connecting their hoses to fight blazes, such as this fire at a low-income housing complex last summer. (Advocate file photo.)
Tagged fire hydrants are some of the City of Red Deer’s new innovations

New ideas are being generated to improve services or save money: general-manager

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
‘Fake’ police officers demand money, Red Deer RCMP warn of scam

Red Deer RCMP are warning the public of a concerning incident where… Continue reading

The sit-down area of Red Deer's Tim Hortons at 3020 22nd St. was closed to the public on Monday because of an "evolving health situation." The drive-through was open and remained busy.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Red Deer Tim Hortons restaurant dining room closed due to “evolving health situation”

Drive-through at Tim Hortons in southeast Red Deer remained open

Although B.C. has not made masks mandatory in public indoor spaces, some business owners are requiring all customers to wear them before entering their store. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Community peace officers and RCMP ready to enforce new mask bylaw

Residents asked for co-operation obeying new rules

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Downtown Iqaluit, Nunavut, is shown after 2 p.m. sunset on November 24, 2020. The territory plans to start lifting a two-week lockdown due to COVID-19 spread on Wednesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Emma Tranter
Nunavut to start lifting its two-week lockdown as COVID-19 cases recover

IQALUIT, Nunavut — Nunavut is to start lifting a two-week lockdown on… Continue reading

Minister of International Trade Mary Ng participates in a news conference on the Canada-United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement in Ottawa, on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. Ng says she is unable to provide a guarantee to MPs that they will see a bill to ratify the new provisional Canada-Britain trade agreement before Parliament adjourns on Dec. 11.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
No text of Canada-U.K. trade deal, minister says as Dec. 31 tariff deadline looms

OTTAWA — Canada’s International Trade Minister Mary Ng says she can’t guarantee… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault responds to reporters during a news conference on Thursday, November 26, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. An association of Quebec booksellers says it acted in haste when it removed social media posts outlining Premier Francois Legault’s book recommendations. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec booksellers’ group apologizes, republishes post outlining premier’s top reads

MONTREAL — An association of Quebec booksellers says it acted in haste… Continue reading

Regine Laurent, president of the Special Commission on the Rights of the Child and Youth Protection, arrives at a news conference to deliver a preliminary report in Montreal on Monday, November 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Quebec urged to create national director of youth protection to oversee system

MONTREAL — A provincial commission looking into the protection of vulnerable children… Continue reading

Ontario Premier Doug Ford puts his mask back on during the daily briefing at Humber River Hospital in Toronto on Tuesday November 24, 2020. Ford says he wants a clear delivery date for the province’s share of COVID-19 vaccines, stressing that “the clock is ticking” when it comes to fighting the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario premier pushes for clear delivery date for COVID-19 vaccines

Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he wants a clear delivery date for… Continue reading

Janelle Robinson owns and operates Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. The Ranch, just north of Stettler, is an animal therapy ranch that helps those with special needs and conditions ranging from PTSD to anxiety. Mark Weber/Stettler Independent
Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler provides support through animal interaction

‘I also come from a family of doers - if something that is needed isn’t there, you just figure it out’

The Alberta government passed new, stricter COVID-19 measures across the province on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Here’s a list of Alberta’s new COVID rules

The Alberta government has provided a list of new COVID-19 measures to… Continue reading

FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2019 file photo, George Clooney participates in the "Catch-22" panel during the Hulu presentation at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour at The Langham Huntington in Pasadena, Calif. In a Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, interview on “CBS Sunday Morning,” Clooney said he's been cutting his own hair for more than two decades with a Flowbee device. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)
George Clooney’s secret to cutting his hair, as seen on TV

LOS ANGELES — George Clooney is just like us, maybe. The star… Continue reading

Most Read