OPN  Abiy Ahmed1-1570878074438
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Image Credit: AFP

The Nobel Peace Prize committee awarded this year’s highest humanitarian honour to Abiy Ahmed, the prime minister of Ethiopia — an award largely given for his peace efforts in ending a long-running dispute with neighbouring Eritrea.

Ahmed’s nation and Eritrea have been long-time enemies, fighting a bitter border war between 1998 and 2000. Thanks to his efforts, the two nations restored normal relations in July 2018 just months after he came to power.

The committee cited Ahmed’s efforts in achieving peace and working on international cooperation and in normalising Ethiopia’s relationship with Eritrea, and while the award itself is given in Ahmed’s name, the committee said that it was also meant to recognise all stakeholders who were working on peace, cooperation and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African nations.

Ahmed, a newcomer to power, is only 43 years old, yet has transformed Ethiopian politics and society with his fresh approach, openness and willingness to find new ways of working.

Certainly, his premiership has meant that many opponents of the government have been freed, political repression has diminished, and peace and stability are now the norm, laying the conditions for future prosperity in the immediate region.

The Nobel Peace Prize goes to a man who has transformed Ethiopia’s government — a nation where half of the representatives in the new parliament are women, so too the Chief of Justice.

Ahmed’s youth and willingness to strive for peace while working in a transparent and open manner is revolutionising the politics of the continent. He is the youngest leader in Africa and represents a sea-change, one where the opportunities for peace and prosperity are firmly taking root.

The peace prize recognises the efforts of a prime minister who, as a teenager, has been indoctrinated by revolutionary ideals, yet has risen to the top echelon of the party apparatus there to bring fundamental change from within.

His nation of 100 million is now focused on growing its economy and building a state that stands as a beacon for the rest of Africa.

Ahmed has partially liberalised sectors of the economy that were under state control but still faces the challenge of meeting the expectations of younger generations frustrated by a lack of jobs and system problems that have stunted growth in Ethiopia.

The Nobel Peace Prize committee, in awarding this year’s accolade to Ahmed, have endorsed a leader who offers a breath of fresh air to his people — and the wider continent.