Ethiopian Prime Minister Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

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Janell Wang, Staff Writer

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 11 for managing to restart peace negotiations with the neighboring country Eritrea. For two decades now, Ethiopia and Eritrea have been stuck in a deadlock of neither peace nor war. Prime Minister Ahmed helped to bring an end to the deadlock between these two countries. 

The two nations were once a single country before a three-decade war resulted in Eritrea seceding and establishing independence from Ethiopia in 1991. However, fighting continued, and the president of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, used this conflict to justify suspending the Constitution of Eritrea. The country was put in a state of emergency and drafted people into military service. This award was said by experts to hopefully pressure the president into lifting the state of emergency.

The Nobel Committee listed Ahmed’s achievements and reforms during his first 100 days in office. This included removing Ethiopia’s state of emergency, ending media censorship, pardoning thousands of political prisoners, giving women more influence in politics and the community, and firing military leaders for possible corruption.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee stated that “Abiy Ahmed has initiated important reforms that give many citizens hope for a better life and a brighter future.”

However, despite all these seemingly positive reforms, opposition threatens the stability of the country. An assassination attempt was made on the prime minister’s life which he escaped. More than two million people have been affected due to the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and 80,000 lives have been lost because of border violence. On another note, it was stated by the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, that “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 peace treaty between Ethiopia and Eritrea was signed over a year ago, and steps were gradually taken to fix relations between the two nations. “When Prime Minister Abiy reached out his hand, President Afwerki grasped it, and helped to formalize the peace process between the two countries,” said Reiss-Andersen.

Families were able to get into contact with each other after telecommunications between Ethiopia and Eritrea were finally restored. In fact, people from one nation would call random numbers just so they could talk with someone else from the other nation. The first commercial Ethiopian Airlines flight that flew to the capital of Eritrea, Asmara, had the passengers kissing the ground upon landing. Two sisters were even able to reunite with their father after two decades of separation. 

While many reforms may have been made and relations between countries are being fixed, it is still a work in progress. Ahmed may have won the Nobel Peace Prize but it remains to be seen if he can hold up the responsibilities for his country.

Photo courtesy of THESUN.CO.UK