Ethiopia's Abiy Ahmed Wins Nobel Peace Prize for 'Decisive Initiative' on Conflict With Eritrea

Prime minister is credited with bringing end to border conflict, making massive strides for regional stability, but rights group warn his work 'is far from done'

Abiy Ahmed addresses delegates during the signing of Sudan's power sharing deal, August 17, 2019
\ Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/ REU

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for his peacemaking efforts with Eritrea.

Ethiopia and Eritrea, longtime foes who fought a border war from 1998 to 2000, restored relations in July 2018 after years of hostility.

The 43-year-old also shocked observers by releasing tens of thousands of prisoners and welcoming home once-banned opposition groups.

"Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali has been awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in its citation.

"We are proud as a nation," Abiy Ahmed's office tweeted jubilantly, calling on "all Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia to continue standing on the side of peace."

Ethiopia's statement adds that "this recognition is a timeless testimony to the 'medemer' ideals of unity, cooperation and mutual coexistence that the prime minister has been consistently championing," using a local term for "unity."

Reactions were unanimously congratulatory, with Ahmed also received acclaim for his role in brokering the power-sharing deal between protesters and military forces in Sudan.

Human rights and humanitarian groups urged the prime minister to uphold and build on the dramatic reforms that led to his award.

The secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, says he was "astounded" by Ethiopia's recent achievements but added that he was "equally struck by meeting many of the millions of displaced Ethiopians as a result of ethnic violence" that has followed the lifting of repressive measures.

"Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's work is far from done," said Amnesty International secretary Kumi Naidoo in a statement. "This award should push and motivate him to tackle the outstanding human rights challenges that threaten to reverse the gains made so far. He must urgently ensure that his government addresses the ongoing ethnic tensions that threaten instability and further human rights abuses."

The Nobel Peace Prize, worth nine million Swedish crowns, or around $900,000, will be presented in Oslo on December 10, the anniversary of the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who founded the awards in his 1895 will.

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, second left, and Ethiopia's PM Abiy Ahmed, hold hands as they wave at the crowds in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 15, 2018
Mulugeta Ayene,AP