A few weeks ago, Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed became the recipient of the 100th Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to “achieve peace and international cooperation”, bringing joy, pride and hope to many of the people of his country.
Being an Ethiopian myself, I can tell you first-hand that this is huge. As a country with a notorious past of conflict and violence, it’s about time Ethiopia was put into the hands of a leader who brings hope instead of fear.
So, who is Dr. Abiy Ahmed? Why is he so special? For starters, at only 43 years old, he is the youngest head of government in Africa (at present). As a teenager, he joined the armed struggle against the Marxist Derg regime, and years later served as a UN peacekeeper in Rwanda, and so much more – all before becoming prime minister in April 2018. He comes from a mixed-religion family (which isn’t too common in a country formerly grounded on its ethnic divisions), and he is Ethiopia’s first Oromo leader (Oromia being the ethnic group that had been marginalised for years).
Since taking lead of the country, his biggest achievement is undoubtedly his signing of the peace deal with Eritrea (Ethiopia’s neighbouring country) following a 20-year period of unresolved conflict. Yes, for 20 years – it began in 1998-2000 when one of the conflicts took place – the two countries battled in war, resulting in thousands of people dying cruel deaths at the hands of merciless killers, ruthless bombings and terrorist attacks. Since the end of the war, the countries have suffered a “military stalemate” (basically a period of time within which neither side could really progress). It was almost as if reconciliation wasn’t plausible – too much damage had been done. So, for the past 20 years, the two countries were more or less indifferent towards each other.
Until Dr. Abiy Ahmed came along, bringing with him hope, optimism and positivity.
He hasn’t been in power all too long, yet he has already freed thousands of opposition activists from jail (many of whom were detained for the most trivial reasons and neglected by authorities), permitted exiled dissidents to return home, and allowed for a reshuffling of cabinet (which is now made up of 50% women – yay for equality!)
He is most definitely the beacon of hope that the people of Ethiopia needed. Previous prime ministers and governmental figures often abused their authority, serving as dictators for years. Ethiopia is a culturally complex country, consisting of many different tribes, languages, religions, people. With so many drastic differences, people can often resort to conflict when struck with opposing views – this was more often than not encouraged by previous governments, who would favour those who they resonated with. But instead of driving people by their differences, Dr. Abiy preaches a new message of togetherness, inclusiveness, or “Medemer.” He has essentially claimed “Medemer” as his mantra, and uses it to spread his message of peace, unity and, well, togetherness.
So, it’s safe to say that Dr. Abiy has made his impact. And his receiving of the Nobel Peace Prize has undoubtedly inspired many, filling Ethiopians with hope nationwide. Being named among the likes of Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela (and rightfully so), he is destined to go down in history as an incredibly influential figure.
But, as always, with a new leading form of power, opposition will arise; at the time of writing this, Ethiopia is seeing the rise of what is being described as a “protest” by news outlets but is actually far worse. “Ethnic-cleansing” is the term being thrown around – ruthless killings perpetuated by mobs of extremists who disagree with Dr. Abiy’s policies. His next challenge shall define his status as the peace-preaching prime minister of the nation: handling his opposition.
And, of course, there was inevitably some disagreement to his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, with many believing that it should have gone to 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg. While Greta’s efforts should certainly not go underappreciated, this Nobel Prize is a peace prize, awarded to those whose aim is to resolve conflict and war. Dr. Abiy introducing huge liberalising reforms to what was formerly such a tightly controlled nation, and aiming to resolve 20 years of hostility, can only be described as deserving of such recognition, and simply revolutionary.
– Leyla Mohammed