The evangelical Prime Minister of Ethiopia has been awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to “achieve peace and international cooperation.”
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a devout Christian and the youngest head of state in Africa, has been heralded for his efforts to bring forward a peace agreement with neighboring Eritrea. The two countries had been embroiled in a territory-based political and military standoff for some 20 years following the Eritrean-Ethiopian War of 1998-2000 — a conflict that claimed the lives of some 100,000 people.
The 2018 Eritrea–Ethiopia peace summit took place just three months after Ahmed was sworn into office — a staggering political achievement, not least because the United Nations had made little progress towards peace despite engaging in a costly, eight-year-long peacekeeping mission across the border region. The UN’s Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) was formally abandoned in 2008 after peacekeepers were driven from the area by Eritrea.
The new peace agreement, signed by Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, brought a formal end to the border conflict between both countries, restored their diplomatic relations and opened up the two countries’ borders to each other for the free movement of people, goods and services.
“Abiy Ahmed has initiated important reforms that give many citizens hope for a better life and a brighter future,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee stated in the announcement of their winner, noting that they awarded him the prize for his “decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea.”
The committee’s statement continued:
“Peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone. When Prime Minister Abiy reached out his hand, President Afwerki grasped it, and helped to formalise the peace process between the two countries. The Norwegian Nobel Committee hopes the peace agreement will help to bring about positive change for the entire populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea.”
In response, Ahmed said he was “humbled and thrilled” at the honor.
“Thank you very much. It is a prize given to Africa, given to Ethiopia and I can imagine how the rest of Africa’s leaders will take it positively to work on [the] peace-building process on our continent,” he said in a phone call with the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
Abiy’s office said his successes were a testament to the “ideals of unity, cooperation and mutual coexistence.”
A committed follower of Jesus, Ahmed’s peacebuilding goes beyond just politics — he also has a strong track record of strengthening ties in the Church. Last year, he was endowed with a special “peace and reconciliation” award by the Ethiopian Church for his assistance in reconciling two separate branches of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church after they split back in 1991.
He also knows how to get the military on board:
Despite having a Muslim father and Orthodox mother, Ahmed is himself a Protestant Pentecostal.
Last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner was Denis Mukwege, Congolese gynecologist and Pentecostal pastor who helped set up a clinic for women who have been raped by rebel militants.