Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed receives Nobel Peace prize for major role in resolving 20-year conflict

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the 20-year war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

The prime minister said that he accepted the award on behalf of Ethiopians and Eritreans, specifically those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of peace.

Mr Ahmed also called for peace in the Horn of Africa as he received his Nobel Peace Prize medal in a formal ceremony at Oslo's City Hall on Tuesday.

Abiy said that it was imperative that the region does not become a "battleground" as more Western powers expand their military operations and terrorist groups seek to establish their position in the region.

"We do not want the Horn to be a battleground for superpowers nor a hideout for the merchants of terror and brokers of despair and misery," Abiy said.

Abiy, 43, said his horrifying experiences as a young Ethiopian soldier informed his decision and made him determined to seek the end of the conflict.

Abiy won the prize, in part, for making peace with Eritrea after one of Africa's longest-running conflicts.

Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said that Mr Ahmed had demonstrated an understanding that peace among neighbours is esstential in a troubled region.

“You have made common cause with all the stakeholders from Eritrea, Djibouti, Sudan, South Sudan, and Kenya who have participated in promoting mediation and peaceful resolution," Reiss-Andersen said.

Under pressure for declining press interviews

The Nobel Peace Prize consists of a diploma, gold medal and a cheque for nine million Swedish kronor ($945,000).

Mr Ahmed was criticised before the day of the ceremony for declining press interviews during his visit to Oslo.

Senior officials of the Norwegian Nobel Institute said the 2019 winner’s refusal to attend any event where he could be asked questions publicly is “highly problematic”.

Olav Njølstad, the secretary of the Nobel committee, said that they would have wanted Mr Ahmed to engage with the press during his stay in Oslo. Adding that freedom of expression and a free and independent press are important components of peace.

Nobel peace prize laureates traditionally hold a news conference a day before the official ceremony, but Abiy told the Norwegian Nobel committee he did not intend to do so.

The other Nobel prizes for literature, physics, chemistry, medicine and economics will also be handed over on Tuesday, but in Stockholm.

A leader who brokered peace between countries

Just two months after becoming prime minister he announced that Ethiopia would fully accept the terms of a peace agreement with Eritrea.

Ahmed played a critical role in healing the rift between the countries. In June 2018, he said Ethiopia would accept a disputed border decision at the root of the current conflict.

In early July, he travelled to Eritrea’s capital, Asmara, to meet with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, where the two men embraced on the airport tarmac, and later released a joint statement declaring that the war had ended and “a new era of peace and friendship” was now open.

More than 80,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes during a two-year war that broke out between the neighbours in 1998.