Celebrating decisive, remarkable and inclusive leadership: Why Ethiopia’s Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize

By Chris Zumani Zimba

abiy_ahmed001-e1571155226107.jpgEarly this month, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the 20-year war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Announcing the prize in the Norwegian city of Oslo, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said Ahmed’s “efforts deserve recognition and need encouragement.”

In response, the Ethiopian Prime Minister tweeted that “My deepest gratitude to all committed and working for peace. This award is for Ethiopia and the African continent. We shall prosper in peace!” he wrote on his Twitter account. But what are the main reasons behind this global recognition and award by someone who has been in office for less than 2 years?

  1. Abiy’s leadership secured peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea plus in Sudan

“I think what Abiy did with the Eritrea issue was very courageous and remarkable. I think a lot of people have considered that what he has done is worthy of such a recognition…The two countries are no longer in the state of war. Families have been reunited because flights are now running between the two countries. Relations that have been severed for 20 years have been rekindled,”  Awol Allo, an associate professor of law at Keele University in Britain said.

The 43-year-old Abiy also recently won plaudits for his role in helping to broker a power-sharing deal in neighboring Sudan, after a political crisis that led to the arrest of Omar al-Bashir, the country’s ruler for almost three decades.

  1. Abiy is a decisive and courageous leader

Abiy became Ethiopia’s Prime Minister in April 2018, the first Oromo to lead his country. The Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, had never been in prominent positions of power. Grievances of their economic and political exclusion drove anti-government protests across the country, which helped his victory as Prime Minister via a vote to preside over a population of more than 100 million people.

The early months of his premiership were marked with bold and progressive decision-making; he released the country’s political prisoners, denouncing their torture and also freeing jailed journalists. Before the new Abiy era, rival politicians and unfavored journalists either were in exile or locked in Ethiopia’s jails, including Addis Ababa’s infamous Maekelawi prison, where many alleged abuses took place. Abiy later shut down the prison.

  1. Abiy is practicing inclusive governance-women not left out

Abiy showed his commitment to gender equality by appointing women to half of his cabinet. Under him, Ethiopia’s parliament even appointed the country’s first female president, Sahle-Work Zewde, and the nation’s first Supreme Court chief, Meaza Ashenafi, was sworn into office. Abiy’s style of leadership is more inclusive and different from anything seen before in Ethiopia’s ruling party. This part of a new agenda, which he pledged during his campaigns last year.  “In a democratic system, the government allows citizens to express their ideas freely without fear,” he said in April 2018.

  1. Abiy is seen as a good leader, one who is ‘Appeasing Westerners’

The international community has largely embraced his initiatives and reforms, such as the recent planting of millions of trees in the country to curb the effects of climate change. This has led to accusations of “appeasing Westerners” and some like blogger Daniel Berhane do not believe he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

Berhane, a prominent blogger based in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa spoke to CNN ahead of the decision. He said: “I do not think he will or should win. If that happens, it will be an endorsement of a person that does not like institutions or teamwork but just churns out half-baked ideas aimed at appeasing Westerners,” he told CNN.

  1. Abiy is running one of the fast-growing economy

The end of the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea catapulted Abiy and Ethiopia into a different status — and redefined the Horn of Africa nation as a regional powerhouse. The tremors of these vast changes have been felt beyond Ethiopia. Eritrea and now Djibouti, Yemen and Somalia are all feeling the Abiy effect. Ethiopian airlines landed in Mogadishu, Somalia, for the first time in 41 years. Djibouti is in talks to share access to its port to service Ethiopian needs. The idea of peace coming to this region at last is an exciting prospect.

The lack of security is threatening the foreign direct investment pouring into Ethiopia since Abiy opened up state-controlled telecoms, electricity and even the national airline to investors. The country’s gross domestic product is expected to reach about $100 billion by 2020, making it one of the fastest-growing economies in the region.

Chris Zumani Zimba is a prolific Zambian Political Scientist, Policy Analyst, Author, Blogger, PhD Scholar, Researcher, Consultant, Public Health and Tobacco Control Advocate. So far, he has authored more than 10 political and academic books as well as published over 100 well researched articles. Chriszumanizimba.cz@gmail.com or chriszumanizimba@yahoo.com; +260 973 153 815 for calls or WhatsApp. This article is made possible by Centre for Multiple Democracies, Good Governance and Peace (MDGGP) under Chrizzima Democracy University (CDU). But the views are attributed to the author and not CDU. 

Source: CNN Africa News, 11 October, 2019



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