Pressured at home, Ethiopia PM picks up Nobel Peace Prize
By Pierre-Henry DESHAYES, AFP, December 10, 2019
Oslo (AFP) – Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will collect his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo on Tuesday, but as ethnic violence rises at home he has kept festivities and meetings with the media to a minimum.
Hailed as a modern, reformist leader, Abiy’s decision to skip all events with the press has dismayed his Norwegian hosts.
Africa’s youngest leader at just 43, he is to receive the prestigious award at a ceremony in Oslo City Hall at 1:00 pm (1200 GMT), attended by the royal family and Norwegian public figures.
The Nobel Committee announced in October it was honouring Abiy for his efforts to resolve the long-running conflict with neighbouring foe Eritrea.
On July 9, 2018, following a historic meeting in Eritrea’s capital Asmara, Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki formally ended a 20-year-old stalemate between their countries in the wake of the 1998-2000 border conflict.
That was just three months after Abiy took office.
– ‘New challenges’ –
During the whip-fast rapprochement that followed, embassies reopened, flights resumed and meetings were held across the region.
Abiy’s actions sparked optimism on a continent marred by violence, and he went on to play an important mediation role in the Sudan crisis and attempted to revive a fragile peace deal in South Sudan.
In stark contrast to his authoritarian predecessors, the early days of his mandate also saw a wave of democracy-boosting measures in Ethiopia, as he lifted the state of emergency, released dissidents from jail, apologised for state brutality and welcomed home exiled armed groups.
He also established a national reconciliation committee and lifted a ban on some political parties.
Abiy’s reforms and visions lifted hopes far beyond his country’s borders, but the “Abiymania” hype has faded somewhat and he is now facing major challenges.
His vow to hold the first “free, fair and democratic” elections since 2005 in May could be threatened by ethnic violence.
Less than two weeks after the Nobel announcement in October, anti-Abiy protests left 86 people dead.
“The situation in Ethiopia has… new challenges but without challenges there is no way that we can do something new,” Abiy told Norwegian broadcaster NRK on his arrival in Oslo.