Nobel Peace Prize: Hope Rises for Africa as Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Emerges as Leading Contender

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Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed has emerged as a leading contender for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to be awarded on Friday.

The Nobel Peace Prize, first awarded in 1901, honours “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses” according to the Nobel Prize organization.

Previous winners from the African continent include Democratic Republic of Congo’s Denis Mukwege, Kenya’s Wangari Maathai and South Africa’s first black president Nelson Mandela.

Abiy is credited with ending a two-decades-old conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, that has, in turn, inspired a series of diplomatic breakthroughs in the Horn of Africa region.

He has pursued a reformist agenda, that has included releasing political prisoners and granting amnesty to all that had fled the country for criticising the previous regimes.

Abiy, who took office in April last year, ended a state of emergency, lifted a ban on opposition groups from Parliament and pledged to liberalise the economy in order to attract investment.

He has also championed women empowerment by naming a gender-parity cabinet, in addition to appointing the country’s first female president, chief justice and electoral commission chief.

His reforms have earned Abiy praise and hate in equal measure, and he has already survived one assassination attempt: a grenade thrown at a rally last year.

“I will be happy if Dr Abiy wins the Nobel Peace Prize and I believe he deserves it. If he wins, it will encourage him to do much better in the future for Ethiopia,’‘ Merry Meles, an Addis Ababa resident said.

“I am an Ethiopian born and raised here, but I have never seen a leader like him in our country in my life. He is a positive person and I hope he will have many followers who will bring our country to a better position,’‘ Bekele Bogale who also resides in the capital said.

His critics, however, said he relies on bold personal initiatives and charisma to drive change instead of working through government institutions.

“None of Abiy’s promised transformational reforms is going to have any solid foundations unless he works through the institutions,” said Comfort Ero, Africa programme director at the International Crisis Group think tank.

“In the first six or seven months, he undercut the institutions … The institutions were either not working or working against his agenda,” said Jawar Mohammed, an Oromo activist and informal adviser to the prime minister.

“I don’t think he could have travelled this far without doing that.”

Ethnic clashes including in his native Oromiya region have however undermined Abiy’s record at home.

Hajer Sharief has been actively advocating for peace in Libya since 2011 when she was 19. Shocked by events of the civil war, Sharief started Together We Build It, aimed at supporting a peaceful democratic transition.

The organization focuses on empowering women and youth in Libyan society.

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