Commentary: Nobel Prize lauds Ethiopia’s Abiy’s peace initiatives

The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, the 100th awarded since 1901, will be bestowed upon Ethiopian Prime Minister (PM) Abiy Ahmed Ali on Dec. 10 in Oslo, Norway. Though only in power for 18 months, Abiy has aggressively sought to reform his own nation, make peace with a northern neighbor, and assist with conflict resolution involving nearby countries on the African continent.

Eritrea, a one-time province of Ethiopia, gained independence in 1993. A subsequent border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea saw as many as 100,000 killed on both sides and 650,000 persons displaced. Although a 2000 agreement between the nations required binding arbitration to resolve boundary disputes among other provisions, Ethiopia ignored that part and continued to occupy disputed territory.

Dr. Samuel B. Hoff

Meanwhile, both countries’ leaders practiced repressive domestic policies, leading to a revolt against Ethiopian PM Hailemariam Delsalegn in February 2018.

When he came to power as prime minister in April 2018, Abiy quickly announced a series of domestic reform measures.

Then in June 2018, the executive committee of the EPRDF announced that Ethiopian was ready to accept the boundary rulings of a commission established pursuant to the 2000 peace agreement.

This game-changing move was quickly embraced by Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, who subsequently met with Ethiopian PM Abiy in the first bilateral talks between the countries in two decades.

During a two-day summit in July 2018, leaders from Ethiopia and Eritrea composed and approved a declaration of peace and friendship, which included formally ending the destructive 1998-2000 war, resuming diplomatic relations, promoting trade and transportation links, implementing border rulings, and pursuing regional cooperation. Indeed, sanctions were lifted, airline flights resumed, and border crossings were reopened even as 1,000 Ethiopians were killed by violence in 2018.

According to the Nobel Committee, Prime Minister Abiy has also been active in helping to end conflicts in other parts of the African continent.

For instance, he contributed to normalization on relations between Eritrea and Djibouti, sought to mediate a feud between Kenya and Somalia, and had a role in the negotiations between the military regime and opposition forces in Sudan.

Dr. Samuel B. Hoff is DESOC George Washington Distinguished Professor and Professor Emeritus of History and Political Science at Delaware State University.

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