Nobel Peace Prize for Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed called ‘well-deserved honor’

Landmark: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s leading role in ending his country’s bitter dispute with neighboring Eritrea was highlighted by the Norwegian Nobel Committee in its peace prize award. (EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP)
Updated 13 October 2019

Nobel Peace Prize for Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed called ‘well-deserved honor’

  • Norwegian Nobel Committee cites 'decisive initiative' to resolve border conflict with Eritrea
  • Abiy faces high expectations from young Ethiopians who want jobs and opportunities

DUBAI: “It is a prize given to Africa, given to Ethiopia and I can imagine that the rest of Africa’s leaders will take it positively to work on (the) peace-building process on our continent.” This was the reaction of Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister, when he was told by the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee that he was the winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

The announcement on Oct. 11 by the committee was far from a surprise. Abiy, 43, had been bookmakers’ second favorite to win, behind the teenage Swedish climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg.

Still, the decision amounted to profound recognition of the efforts and success of an indefatigable peacemaker in a continent wracked by conflict and violence.

The Ethiopian leader’s biggest achievement to date is ending two decades of hostility and restoring ties with long-term enemy Eritrea that had been frozen since a 1998-2000 border war. “I have said often that winds of hope are blowing ever stronger across Africa. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is one of the main reasons why,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.




The Nobel Peace Prize will be presented in Oslo on Dec. 10 on the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. (AFP)

During the border war, Abiy, who was born in Ethiopia to a Muslim father and Christian mother, led a spy team on a reconnaissance mission into areas held by the Eritrean Defence Forces. But when he became prime minister, he was quick to launch a peace offensive.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Abiy was honored for his “decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea.”

However, it added that the prize is “meant to recognize all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the east and northeast African regions.

“Peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone. When Prime Minister Abiy reached out his hand, President (Isaias) Afwerki grasped it, and helped to formalise the peace process between the two countries.

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes the peace agreement will help to bring about positive change for the entire populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea.”

IN NUMBERS

9 million - Value of the Nobel Peace Prize in Swedish crowns

301 - Candidates who were nominated for the award

The principles of the agreement are set out in the declarations that Abiy and Afwerki signed in Asmara, the Eritrean capital, and in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah in July and September of last year.

Dan Smith, head of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said by choosing Abiy, the committee is seeking to encourage the peace process, echoing the 1994 peace prize shared by Israeli and Palestinian leaders and the 1993 award for moves toward reconciliation in South Africa.

“It is a case of wanting a constructive intervention in the peace process ... to give leverage and encouragement,” he said.

“The challenge now is internal for Abiy, with Ethiopia needing to deal with the consequences of long-term violence, including 3 million displaced people and the need to continue the political process.”

Abiy took office in April 2018 after the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn following three years of violent anti-government protests in Africa’s second-most populous country.

The ruling coalition had already begun making conciliatory measures, but it was Abiy who sped up the reforms.




Ethiopian students welcome PM Abiy Ahmed, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Somali leader Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed in 2018. (AFP)

After securing peace with Eritrea, he swiftly released dissidents from jail, apologized for state brutality and welcomed home exiled armed groups. Those actions sparked optimism in a region blighted by violence.

Since then, Abiy has played a significant role in bringing peace to the Horn of Africa region, from Sudan to Somalia and Djibouti, all of which at some time have had border disputes. Small wonder, then, fellow African leaders were among the first to congratulate him.

The “warmest felicitations” were sent by Liberian President George Weah, who said in a tweet: “I hereby join the rest of Africa and the world at large in celebrating with the great people of Ethiopia and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for winning the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Award.”

Somalian President Mohamed Farmaajo called Abiy a “deserving winner” via Twitter, adding “I have enjoyed working with him on strengthening regional cooperation.”

Meanwhile, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo said the award was “a reminder to us all that peace is one of the most critical ingredients needed to make Africa successful.”

Speaking to CNN, Biniam Getaneh, an Ethiopian poet and writer, described the award as a “big win” not only for Abiy and Ethiopia but for Africa, too. “Despite the shortcomings of the reform he introduced and the man himself, I believe he is deserving of this international recognition simply for his peace efforts with Eritrea,” he said.

Congratulations came in from Arab leaders, too. “My sincere congratulations to my dear friend Dr. Abiy Ahmed on winning the #NobelPeacePrize,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, said in a tweet.

“He is a wise man who has brought peace and hope to his country and region. The prize is a well-deserved honour for an extraordinary leader.”

Abiy visited the Gulf in July last year, when he and Afwerki were honored with the UAE’s highest civil honor for their reconciliation efforts. Sheikh Mohammed had conferred the Order of Zayed on the two leaders on that occasion.




A woman sits amid ruins in the Ethiopian town of Zala Ambesa following a clash with Eritrean forces during a border war between the two countries in the late 1990s. (AFP)

In addition to resolving the border dispute with Eritrea, Abiy’s government has promised to liberalize the bureaucratic, state-controlled Ethiopian economy, overturned bans on many political parties and dismissed or arrested many senior officials accused of corruption, torture or murder.

Despite the abundant international recognition for his work, however, Abiy faces big challenges, with many wondering if he can control the political forces he has unleashed in a country of 100 million people.

The biggest threats appear to come from elements within the ruling coalition who feel disempowered and from new, ethnically based parties eager to flex their muscles in next year’s elections.

Abiy survived an assassination attempt amid riots in June 2016 and faced down a mutiny from his own military by challenging — and then defeating — them in a push-up competition.

The loosening of political freedoms means that many regional power brokers are demanding more influence and resources, fueling ethnic conflicts around the country.

In June, a rogue state militia leader killed the head of the Amhara region and other senior officials in what the government described as a regional coup attempt.

Abiy also faces high expectations from young Ethiopians who want jobs, development and opportunities, and feel the government still has much to do to improve daily life in the country.

The same sentiments were echoed by Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, who said: “There is a lot achieved already in reforming Ethiopia to a democracy, but there is also a long way to go. Rome was not made in a day and neither will peace or democratic development be achieved in a short period of time.”


Testimony of former National Security Council aide ties Trump closer to pressure on Ukraine

Updated 4 min 53 sec ago

Testimony of former National Security Council aide ties Trump closer to pressure on Ukraine

  • Former National Security Council aide Tim Morrison recounts that Sondland told him he was discussing the Ukraine matters directly with Trump

WASHINGTON: Gordon Sondland, President Donald Trump’s emissary to the European Union, had a message when he met with a top Ukrainian official.
Sondland said vital US military assistance to Ukraine might be freed up if the country’s top prosecutor “would go to the mike and announce that he was opening the Burisma investigation,” a US official told lawmakers. Burisma is the gas company in Ukraine where Democrat Joe Biden’s son Hunter served on the board.
Sondland relayed the exchange moments later to Tim Morrison, then a National Security Council aide. In his private testimony to impeachment investigators made public Saturday, Morrison recounted that Sondland also told him he was discussing the Ukraine matters directly with Trump.
Morrison’s testimony ties Trump more closely to the central charge from Democrats pursuing impeachment: that Trump held up US military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations into Democrats and Biden’s family. Morrison’s testimony also contradicts much of what Sondland told congressional investigators during his own closed-door deposition, which the ambassador later amended.
Both Morrison and Sondland are scheduled to testify publicly next week as part of the historic, high-stakes impeachment proceedings into the nation’s 45th president. Democrats charge that Trump abused his office for personal political gain, while the president and his allies argue that the process is politically motivated and that nothing in the testimony so far meets the bar for impeachment.
Transcripts from the closed-door testimony from Morrison, a longtime Republican defense hawk in Washington, and Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence on Russia and Europe, were released Saturday as investigators accelerated and deepened the probe. They provided another window into the alarm within the government over Ukraine pressure.
Immediately after the exchange with Sondland during an international gathering in Warsaw, Morrison called his boss, John Bolton, then Trump’s national security adviser.
“Stay out of it,” Bolton told him, “brief the lawyers.”
For Morrison, Burisma was a catch-all for a “bucket” of investigations — of Democrats and the family of Joe Biden — that he wanted to “stay away from.” They had nothing to do with “the proper policy process that I was involved in on Ukraine,” he testified.
Morrison said Sondland and Trump had spoken approximately five times between July 15 and Sept. 11 — the weeks that $391 million in US assistance was withheld from Ukraine before it was released.
While some, including Trump himself, have begun to question Sondland’s knowledge of events, Morrison told House investigators the ambassador “related to me he was acting — he was discussing these matters with the President.”
Pressed by Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee leading the probe, as to whether Sondland had actually spoken to the president, Morrison said he had verified it each time.
Pence, so far, has been a more unseen figure in the impeachment inquiry, but testimony from Williams raised fresh questions about what Pence knew about Trump’s actions toward Ukraine.
Pence was also at the Warsaw gathering. For the new government of Ukraine, situated between NATO allies and Russia, the security aid Congress had already approved was a lifeline to the West.
Williams was among the staffers in the White House Situation Room who listened and took notes during Trump’s July 25 call when he asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for “a favor.” A whistleblower’s complaint about that call helped spark the House impeachment investigation.
Williams testified that Trump’s discussion on the call of specific investigations struck her as “unusual and inappropriate” and seemed to point to “other motivations” for holding up the military aid.
After the call, Williams told investigators, she put the White House’s rough transcript into the into the vice president’s daily briefing book.
“I just don’t know if he read it,” she said.
Williams corroborated the testimony of a previous witness, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an NSC aide on the call, who said the White House dropped the word “Burisma” from the transcript. She said in an addendum to her testimony that Zelenskiy had mentioned the word “Burisma” in the call.
Vindman and Williams at scheduled to testify together during a public impeachment hearing on Tuesday morning.
The White House’s decision to put the transcript of the July 25 call on a highly classified server has drawn keen interest throughout the probe. But Morrison said the unusual move was unintentional.
Morrison said he was concerned if the call got out it would be politically damaging. He talked to White House lawyer John Eisenberg and they agreed that access should be restricted, he testified.
But Morrison said Eisenberg later told him that he did not intend for the call summary to be placed on a highly classified server. Eisenberg’s staff apparently put it there by mistake, he said.
As the transcripts were released, impeachment investigators wrapped up a rare Saturday session interviewing Mark Sandy, a little-known career official at the Office of Management and Budget who was involved in key meetings about the aid package.
Sandy’s name had barely come up in previous testimony. But it did on one particular date: July 25, the day of Trump’s call with Zelenskiy. That day, a legal document with Sandy’s signature directed a freeze of the security funds to Ukraine, according to testimony.
Throughout Morrison’s account, he largely confirmed testimony from current and former officials about what has been described as a shadow diplomacy being run by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, often at odds with US national security interests.
A few days after the Warsaw meeting, Sondland was on the phone telling Morrison Sept. 7 he had just gotten off a call with the president.
Morrison said Sondland related that Trump assured him there were no strings being attached to the military aid for Ukraine.
“The president told him there was no quid pro quo, but President Zelenskiy must announce the opening of the investigations and he should want to do it,” Morrison testified.
Morrison had what he called a “sinking feeling” that the aid may not ultimately be released. About that time, three congressional committees said they were launching inquiries into efforts by Trump and Giuliani to investigate the Bidens.
At a Sept. 11 meeting at the White House, Pence and GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio “convinced the president that the aid should be disbursed immediately,” said Morrison, who said he was briefed about the meeting but did not attend it. “The case was made to the president that it was the appropriate and prudent thing to do.”