Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
Credit: Office of the Prime Minister

Why Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Won the Nobel Peace Prize

Ethiopia’s young Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali has been awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. In conferring the honor, the Nobel Prize Committee said the Ethiopian leader was awarded the prize “for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea.”

These peace efforts between Ethiopia and Eritrea began in earnest in 2018, culminating in a truly remarkable moment 0n June 26 that year, when Eritrean leaders flew to the capitol of Ethiopia for peace talks. This was the first a high level meeting between these erstwhile foes in nearly twenty years. In the late 1990s, the two countries fought a brutal war and despite a ceasefire agreement, the two countries remained actively hostile to each other. But in June 2018, that suddenly–and swiftly– began to change. Peace was breaking out in the Horn of Africa — and the peace agreement they signed has held.

This can help explain why Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has won the Nobel Peace Prize.

At the time, I spoke with Michael Woldermairam, an Assistant Professor of International Relations and Political Science at the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University who explained how these two irreconcilable foes so quickly came to the peace table. What changed, he explained, was a change in leadership in Ethiopia that brought the reformer Abiy to power in April 2018.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn the background to the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict and how this peace agreement came to life, have a listen to the Global Dispatches podcast episode. 


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As Prime Minister Abiy sought peace with Eritrea, he also began a deliberate process of democratic renewal in Ethiopia

Since taking office in April 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has accelerated a process of political opening, including a greater freedom of press, the release of political prisoners and other meaningful reforms.  At a moment when authoritarianism and democratic backsliding are on the rise around the world, it is significant that the Nobel Peace Prize committee honored Abiy Ahmed, who is leading a meaningful democratic renewal in a recently authoritarian country.

But Ethiopia’s transition to a liberal, open and multi-party democracy has not been without challenge.

On June 22 this year, an a general tried to orchestrate a coup attempt, which resulted in two high profile assassinations. That coup attempt, which failed, came on the heels of inter-communal clashes that forced nearly 3 million people from their homes.

On the line to help explain why Ethiopian politics is at a pivotal moment now is William Davidson, senior Ethiopia analyst with the International Crisis Group. He offers listeners some helpful context and background for understanding the current situation, including what is driving change and the counter-reactions to the process of democratic renewal.

If you have 20 minutes and want to learn about the ongoing democratic renewal in Ethiopia, have a listen to this Global Dispatches podcast episode 


Get the Global Dispatches Podcast. Download using these links to listen later

Apple Podcasts  |  Spotify  |  Stitcher  | Google Play Music​  | Radio Public