"Hopefully, the prize means that the peace process gets more legitimate and concrete"
He has been called Africa's Obama. Now that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali receives the Nobel Peace Prize, the similarities between the two leaders increases even more.
“As a fellow Ethiopian and African, I am happy. Abiy Ahmed took a bold initiative to resolve a conflict between two countries that has been going on for almost 20 years,” says Bizusew Ashagrie, PhD student in peace and development research at the University of Gothenburg.
The Ethiopian Prime Minister receives the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiatives to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea. In many ways, this is a classic choice, as it is both a recognition for peace work done and an encouragement to keep going forward.
“Hopefully, the prize means that the peace process gets more legitimate and concrete. It is also a recognition that Africans can solve their own problems. It is, after all, a bilateral initiative between two African countries,” says Bizusew Ashagrie.
The conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia has been deadlocked for twenty years. When Abiy Ahmed took office, he initiated close cooperation with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, and together they quickly developed principles for a peace agreement.
“Various attempts to resolve the conflict have been made over the years, but in the end it was an initiative from one of the two countries that succeeded. Abiy Ahmed's intervention and how he framed the whole process enabled the development of trust between the two sides and paved the way for breaking the deadlock,” says Bizusew Ashagrie.
Hoping for the prize will drive the peace process forward
Abiy Ahmed is 43 years old and has a Ph.D in peace and conflict resolution from the University of Addis Ababa. In 2017 he presented his dissertation, which deals with conflict resolution in Ethiopia. He also has a background as a military intelligence officer in the army. Since April 2018, he is the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.
In the pre-speculation, Abiy Ahmed was a conceivable candidate for the prize, but some felt the time wasn’t right due to the fact that old ethnic rivalries recently have flared up. The Norwegian Nobel Committee responded to this possible criticism in the announcement, arguing that it is right now that Abiy Ahmed's efforts to make peace deserve recognition and need encouragement. The Committee also hopes that the prize will strengthen the Prime Minister in his work for peace and reconciliation.
"The next step is to formalize and institutionalize and formalize the peace treaty, and this type of price will hopefully drive the process forward," says Bizusew Ashagrie.
He goes on to say that progress in Ethiopia is not just about Abiy Ahmed.
“There have been changes in Ethiopia that have helped him. For example, the last two or three years of protest movements have also been significant in giving him the platform to make the peace overture and embark on sweeping reforms.”
Photo by Bizusew Ashagrie: Evelina Assarsson
Street pictures from Addis Ababa: Johan Wingborg