BY TAIWO FAROTIMI
World leaders have hailed announcement by the Nobel Committee that the 2019 winner of the Nobel Peace award is an African head of government. The winner, Abiy Ahmed, prime minister of Ethiopia, is being recognised for his daring effort to end decades of war between his country and Eritrea. Though he came into office in April last year, Abiy is praised for working tirelessly with President Isaias Afwerk to put an end to the hostility in the region. According to Berit Reiss-Anderson, chair of the Norwegean Nobel Committee, “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, 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.” In the two decades that the war lasted, both sides lost nationals even as the economy suffered greatly.
Apart from the peace efforts, the Nobel Committee also took cognisance of his reforms which it said hold hope for the citizens.
Though Reiss-Anderson admitted that a lot needs to be done to entrench democracy, she said that the feat which saw an end to a 20-year border war between the two countries in less than two years in office is worthy of reward, adding that it is a way of encouraging the prime minister.
Aside from bringing peace between his country and the neighbouring Eritrea, 43-year-old Abiy Ahmed had also been praised for brokering a power-sharing formula in the neighbouring Sudan, after Omar Al-Bashir fell out of power. The latter had ruled Sudan for about three decades.
The Nobel Committee said it had not been able to reach out to Abiy ahead of the formal announcement and hoped he would be listening to the broadcast for him to accept their congratulations, goodwill messages have been pouring in from world leaders and notable organisations. First, the secretary general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres said of the Nobel Committee choice, “His vision helped Ethiopia and Eritrea achieve a historic rapprochement & his leadership has set a wonderful example for others in & beyond Africa”. Roila Odinga, former president of Kenya sees the award as ‘honour to our continent which has been held back by wars.’
The reaction of Amnesty International comes with caution, perhaps in recognition of those imperfections that even the Nobel Committee chair alluded to. The human rights body said, “This award should push & motivate him to tackle the outstanding human rights challenges that threaten to reverse the gains made so far.”
When the secretary to the committee eventually got the new laureate on the phone he said, he was `humbled and thrilled’ by the award. A statement from office said, ‘We are proud as a nation’.
He is the 100th winner of the highly coveted honour.