Published: 11th October 2019
Nobel Peace Prize: Sorry Greta, it's Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed's turn
Abiy was honoured for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea
Going against buzz about Greta Thunberg winning the Nobel Peace Prize this year, Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed was announced the winner on October 11 at the Nobel Institute in Oslo. Even though bookies had Swedish climate activist Greta as the name to beat ahead of the announcement, experts had maintained that Abiy Ahmed or a representative of the free press was more likely.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was on Friday awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to resolve his country's conflict with bitter foe Eritrea, the Nobel Committee said. Abiy was honoured "for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea," the jury said.
Ethiopia reached a peace deal with Eritrea last year, ending a 20-year military stalemate following their 1998-2000 border war. He was named as the winner of the 100th Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. The prize, worth nine million Swedish crowns (about £730,000; $900,000), will be awarded in Oslo in December, reported BBC.
After becoming prime minister in April 2018, Abiy introduced massive liberalising reforms to Ethiopia, shaking up what was an extremely tightly controlled nation. He freed thousands of opposition activists from jail and allowed exiled dissidents to return home. Most importantly, he signed a peace deal with Ethiopia's neighbour Eritrea, ending a two-decade conflict. But his reforms also lifted the lid on Ethiopia's ethnic tensions, and the resulting violence forced some 2.5 million people from their homes
"Abiy Ahmed would be a good candidate, as his tenure has had peace-inducing effects in the country and on the region," Peter Wallensteen, Professor of Peace and Conflict Research at Sweden's Uppsala University, had predicted.
Greta made global headlines in late September when she lambasted world leaders at the UN climate summit in New York. "How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words," she thundered, holding back tears. But despite her impassioned wake-up calls, experts are sceptical she'll be honoured.
"Extremely unlikely," Henrik Urdal, director of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo (Prio), told AFP about her chances of winning, citing her young age and a lack of consensus on how climate change relates to armed conflict. "The only way I could see that happen is that she would be part of a shared prize like Malala," Urdal said, referring to Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who shared the 2014 prize — at age 17 — with Indian children's rights activist Kailash Satyarthi.
Speculation in Norwegian media on the eve of the announcement centred on organisations like the UN World Food Programme, for their work during the conflict in Yemen, and media advocates like Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in a time of 'fake news' and violence against journalists.
If one is to trust online betting sites like Ladbrokes, the favourite is 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who has already received Amnesty International's top honour and the Right Livelihood Award, sometimes dubbed the "alternative Nobel". In August last year, she began sitting alone in front of Sweden's parliament on Fridays with a sign reading "School Strike for the Climate". In little more than a year, she has galvanised millions of young people around the world to take part in demonstrations to raise awareness for action on climate change.
Experts also suggest that the five-person committee could this year decide to focus on freedom of expression and information, at a time when such freedoms are under pressure in both democracies and authoritarian regimes. "In the age of fake news and information overload and the lack of transparency, the lack of accountability in many political processes, this is something that I would hope the committee would take very seriously and consider," Urdal said.
Broadly considered a controversial long shot, US President Donald Trump has nonetheless been mentioned for his efforts to mend old wounds with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Last year, the award — consisting of a gold medal, a diploma, and nine million Swedish kronor (around USD 912,000 or 828,000 euro) — was given to two champions fighting sexual violence, Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege and Yazidi activist Nadia Murad. On Thursday, the Swedish Academy in Stockholm gave the 2019 Nobel Literature Prize to Austrian author Peter Handke.
The 2018 prize, which the Academy had postponed in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal, was awarded to Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk. The Economics Prize will wrap up the 2019 Nobel prize season on October 14.