A noble award for Abiy's peace treaty

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) shakes hands with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. AFP

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for his “efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation” as well as his “decisive initiative” to end the decades-old border conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. A former intelligence official in the Ethiopian government, Abiy became prime minister only in April last year. In the short span at the helm, he has radically transformed his country’s relationship with its neighbour. Decisive, Abiy certainly was. He swiftly restored democratic relations with Eritrea and revived travel and telecommunication ties with it. He took less than three months to reach a peace agreement to end a violent conflict with Eritrea which festered for over two decades. Simultaneously, he lifted the long-standing state of emergency in Ethiopia, freed thousands of Opposition activists from jail, ended controls on the media and allowed political parties, which had been designated as terrorists by his predecessors, to return to Ethiopia’s political arena. He also introduced economic reforms to improve opportunities for the Ethiopians. The Nobel Peace Prize honours Abiy’s achievements in changing the lives of his people and those in the region. It is a recognition of his bold leadership.

The Nobel Peace Prize is not just an award recognising Abiy’s achievements in the recent past. It should empower him to persist on the path of peace that he set out on a year ago. What he has done so far is to put in place a peace treaty. He has only laid the foundation for improved relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Now comes the more challenging part. Abiy has to address the causes and consequences of the conflict. Millions of displaced people need to return home. Democratic institutions need to be built and repressive power structures dismantled. Abiy’s accomplishments are works in progress.

It is heartening to see that Abiy has not restricted his peacemaking skills to Ethiopia’s conflict with Eritrea. He is engaged in the role of a peacemaker in conflicts in South Sudan, Kenya, etc. Just 42 years old, Abiy apparently sympathises with young protestors and rebels, and understands their aspirations. His experience as an army officer has contributed to his understanding that without stability there can be no development. Abiy has adopted the concept of medemer, a term in Ethiopia’s Amharic language meaning unity and inclusivity in his life. There can be no peace or development without inclusivity, especially in plural societies. Leaders in other countries in Africa and elsewhere who are struggling with protracted conflicts should draw inspiration from Abiy’s work over the last year and adopt medemer as a way of life.

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