Prime Minster Abiy Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

13 Dec 2019

On 10th December, the world’s eyes were on Oslo, host city for the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony.  This day will also go down history as it saw the first Ethiopian to be awarded a Nobel Prize.

Back in October the Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019 to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.

This year’s prize, which is the 100th Nobel Peace Prize, is also meant to recognise all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions.

Opening the ceremony, which was attended by distinguished guests including the Norwegian royal family. The chairperson of the Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, said that Prime Minister Abiy represented a “new generation of African leaders who realise that conflict must be resolved by peaceful means”. “You seized the initiative and were the main architect behind the peace negotiations that were successfully conducted with Eritrea,” she said.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, signs the Nobel Protocol on his arrival in Oslo. The Prime Minister signed it in Amharic.

“We are awarding the Peace Prize to you as an individual because you have personally made an extraordinary difference across several arenas. It is the totality of your efforts that convinced us that it is you, Mr Prime Minister, who have made the most significant contribution to peace in the past year, ” she said.

Recognising that Ethiopia is the cradle of humanity she said that “we are all Ethiopians”.

Prime Minister Abiy’s Nobel Peace Prize diploma

…an award for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for peace

In his Nobel Lecture, titled “Forging A Durable Peace in the Horn of Africa”, the Prime Minister thanked the Norwegian Nobel Committee for “recognising and encouraging my contribution to a peaceful resolution of the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea.”

“I accept this award on behalf of Ethiopians and Eritreans, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of peace.

“Likewise, I accept this award on behalf of my partner, and comrade-in-peace, President Isaias Afeworki, whose goodwill, trust and commitment were vital in ending the two-decade deadlock between our countries.”

“I also accept this award on behalf of Africans and citizens of the world for whom the dream of peace has often turned into a nightmare of war,” he added.

The Prime Minister said his horrifying experiences as a young Ethiopian soldier fuelled his determination to seek an end to the long conflict with Eritrea.

“War is the epitome of hell for all involved. I know because I have been there and back.”

“During the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, an estimated one hundred thousand soldiers and civilians lost their lives.

“The aftermath of the war also left untold numbers of families broken. It also permanently shattered communities on both sides.

“Following the end of active armed conflict in June 2000, Ethiopia and Eritrea remained deadlocked in a stalemate of no-war, no-peace for two decades.

Tens of thousands of troops remained stationed along both sides of the border. They remained on edge, as did the rest of the country and region.

The war and the stalemate that followed were a threat to regional peace, with fears that a resumption of active combat between Ethiopia and Eritrea would destabilize the entire Horn region.

And so, when I became Prime Minister about 18 months ago, I felt in my heart that ending the uncertainty was necessary.

I believed peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea was within reach. I was convinced that the imaginary wall separating our two countries for much too long needed to be torn down.

And in its place, a bridge of friendship, collaboration and goodwill has to be built to last for ages.

That is how I approached the task of building a peace bridge with my partner President Isaias Afeworki.

We were both ready to allow peace to flourish and shine through…We agreed we must work cooperatively for the prosperity of our people and our region.

“It takes a few to make war, but it takes a village and a nation to build peace.”

The Prime Minister also highlighted the historic strides Ethiopia has made over the past few months in peace, including the release of all political prisoners and the closing of notorious detention facilities where torture and human rights abuses took place.

He further said, “Today, Ethiopia is highly regarded for press freedom. It is no more a ‘jailor of journalists’. Opposition leaders of all political stripes are free to engage in peaceful political activity.”

“We are creating an Ethiopia that is second to none in its guarantee of freedoms of expression.”

He further added that the country has laid the groundwork for genuine multiparty democracy, and “we will soon hold a free and fair election.”

The Prime Minister called upon all “my fellow Ethiopians to join hands and help build a country that offers equal justice, equal rights, and equal opportunities for all its citizens.”

He also urged them to avoid the path of extremism and division, powered by the politics of exclusion.

 

…a source of great pride and inspiration

In a statement released shortly after his award, the PM said that he was deeply honoured and humbled by the recognition of the Nobel Committee. “The award is both a source of great pride and inspiration both in Ethiopia and the broader region.”

The Prime Minister also extended his congratulations to the Nobel Committee and the Norwegian people for the extremely important work they are doing to highlight the cause of peace, justice and human dignity around the world.

“Our problems are far from resolved. But with Medemer as our guiding philosophy, we are determined to ensure Ethiopians are free from fear and want, that their hearts and borders remain open to new ideas and opportunities, and that, together, they shall overcome.”

The Prime Minister reaffirmed his commitment to upholding the ideals of the Nobel Prize throughout his term in office and beyond.

Read the full statement.

 

The Nobel ceremony was also an opportunity to showcase Ethiopia’s diverse culture. Ethiopian musician Bruktawit Getahun, better known as Betty G, performed at the ceremony.

Speaking to the BBC, Betty G said, “My attire and hair style represented Tigray people. I was singing in the Amharic language, so this represents the Amhara people.”

 

The title of one of the two songs she sang, Sin Jaaladhaa, means “I Love You” in Afaan Oromoo, the language of the Oromo people.

“To represent the Muslim community in Harar and DireDawa, I had henna [on my hand].

“I had a very short time on stage, so I thought I needed to promote what every Ethiopian citizen loves and can relate to.‘’

…Ethiopians and Eritreans in Oslo hold candlelit peace march

Ethiopians and Eritreans in Oslo staged a candlelit peace procession in celebration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Nobel Peace Prize Award on 10th December.

On the side-lines of his visit to Oslo, the Prime Minister also held a bilateral meeting with his Norwegian counterpart Prime Minister Erna Solberg. The two discussed various issues including Ethiopia’s efforts in building a democracy and strengthening its momentum.

PM Abiy with PM Erna Solberg at a press conference

As part of the Nobel Prize tradition, PM Abiy also held meetings with the President of the Norwegian Parliament, Ms Tone Trøen and the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, led by Ms Anniken Huitfeldt. The discussions focused on political, economic and social developments in Ethiopia.

Nobel Peace Prize exhibition, ‘Crossroads Ethiopia’ now open

While in Oslo the PM inaugurated the new Peace Prize exhibition at the Nobel Peace Centre, which opened to the public on 12th December.

The exhibition, entitled ‘Crossroads Ethiopia’, portraits Ethiopia’s ongoing process of peace and democracy.

At the opening of the exhibition, the Prime Minister thanked the Norwegian Nobel Committee for the recognition and said: “We will keep working together to make the world better.”

The exhibition, which runs for a year until 21stNovember 2020, consists of a series of photographs taken by the award-winning Irish-Canadian photographer Finbarr O´Reilly who visited Ethiopia in November 2019 on assignment by the Nobel Peace Centre.

O´Reilly captured some of the women assigned to power in PM Abiy´s new government and how the changes inflicts the society in Addis Ababa.

 Photo of Ethiopia’s first Supreme Court President, Meaza Ashenafi. © Finbarr O’Reilly  for the Nobel Peace  Centre

Addis Ababa, which has a thriving photograph scene, is also depicted part of the exhibition with photographs captured by Ethiopia´s seven highest ranking photographers and curated by one of Ethiopia’s most celebrated photographers, Aida Muluneh. The images show the transition the country has gone through.

…Hero’s welcome in Ethiopia

Upon his return to Ethiopia, senior government officials and tens of thousands of Ethiopians, who lined the streets of Addis Ababa, gave the Prime Minister a hero’s welcome.

Deputy Prime Minister, H.E. Demeke Mekonnen welcomes the Prime Minister

Speaking shortly after arriving, the Prime Minister said that “the award has helped to draw attention to Ethiopia, Eritrea and the east Africa region…I hope we will celebrate this milestone in Eritrea soon.”

A 21-gun salute was also fired in honour of the Prime Minister.

“After witnessing the world celebrating Ethiopia, I am glad to be back home. Thank you to all who organized a heart-warming welcome and celebrating our collective victory. Together we can and we will!”

~ Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

At a state dinner held at the National Palace in honour of the Prime Minister, President Sahle-Work called for unity, saying that Ethiopia is on a reform path and that “we should join hands to overcome the challenges facing the reform process.”

Senior government officials, the diplomatic community and invited guests attended the dinner held in honour of the Prime Minister’s Nobel Prize.

Echoing President Sahle-Work, Prime Minister Abiy said “We should stand together to add momentum to the reforms launched in Ethiopia and realize the country’s move towards prosperity.”

The Prime Minister urged all Ethiopians to contribute their share to the economic growth of the country by working day and night with unity.

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