Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali has won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for his peacemaking efforts with neighbouring Eritrea.
Ethiopia (; Amharic: ኢትዮጵያ, ʾĪtyōṗṗyā, listen , Tigrinya: ኢትዮጵያ, Oromo: Itoophiyaa, Somali: Itoobiya), officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (የኢትዮጵያ ፌዴራላዊ ዲሞክራሲያዊ ሪፐብሊክ, yeʾĪtiyoṗṗya Fēdēralawī Dēmokirasīyawī Rīpebilīk, listen ), is a country in the northeastern part of Africa, known as the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, the de facto state of Somaliland and Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, South Sudan to the west and Sudan to the northwest. With over 102 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populous nation on the African continent with a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres (420,000 sq mi). Its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa, which lies a few miles west of the East African Rift that splits the country into the Nubian and Somali tectonic plates.
Some of the oldest skeletal evidence for anatomically modern humans has been found in Ethiopia. It is widely considered as the region from which modern humans first set out for the Middle East and places beyond. According to linguists, the first Afroasiatic-speaking populations settled in the Horn region during the ensuing Neolithic era. Tracing its roots to the 2nd millennium BCE, Ethiopia’s governmental system was a monarchy for most of its history. Oral literature tells that the monarchy was founded by the Solomonic dynasty of the Queen of Sheba, under its first king, Menelik I. In the first centuries, the Kingdom of Aksum maintained a unified civilization in the region, followed by the Ethiopian Empire circa 1137. During the late 19th-century Scramble for Africa, Ethiopia and Liberia were two nations that preserved their sovereignty from long-term colonisation by a European colonial power and many newly-independent nations on the continent subsequently adopted its flag colours. However, the country was later occupied by Italy in 1936 and became Italian Ethiopia (part of Italian East Africa) until it was liberated during World War II. Ethiopia was also the first independent member from Africa of the 20th-century League of Nations and the United Nations. In 1974, the Ethiopian monarchy under Haile Selassie was overthrown by the Derg, a communist military government backed by the Soviet Union. In 1987, the Derg established the People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, but it was overthrown in 1991 by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, which has been the ruling political coalition since.
Ethiopia and Eritrea use the ancient Ge’ez script, which is one of the oldest alphabets still in use in the world. The Ethiopian calendar, which is approximately seven years and three months behind the Gregorian calendar, co-exists alongside the Borana calendar. A majority of the population adheres to Christianity (mainly the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and P’ent’ay) and the historical Kingdom of Aksum was one of the first states to officially adopt the religion, whereas around a third follows Islam (primarily Sunni). The country is the site of the Migration to Abyssinia and the oldest Muslim settlement in Africa at Negash. A substantial population of Ethiopian Jews, known as Bete Israel, also resided in Ethiopia until the 1980s. Ethiopia is a multilingual nation with around 80 ethnolinguistic groups, the four largest of which are the Oromo, Amhara, Somali and Tigrayans. Most people in the country speak Afroasiatic languages of the Cushitic or Semitic branches. Additionally, Omotic languages are spoken by ethnic minority groups inhabiting the southern regions. Nilo-Saharan languages are also spoken by the nation’s Nilotic ethnic minorities. Oromo is the most populous language by native speakers, while Amharic is the most populous by number of total speakers and serves as the working language in the federal government. Ge’ez remains important as a liturgical language, both for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and for the Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews).
The nation is a land of natural contrasts, with its vast fertile west, its forests, and numerous rivers, and the world’s hottest settlement of Dallol in its north. The Ethiopian Highlands are the largest continuous mountain ranges in Africa, and the Sof Omar Caves contains the largest cave on the continent. Ethiopia also has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Africa. Additionally, the sovereign state is a founding member of the UN, the Group of 24 (G-24), the Non-Aligned Movement, G-77 and the Organisation of African Unity. Its capital city Addis Ababa serves as the headquarters of the African Union, the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the African Standby Force, and many of the global NGOs focused on Africa. In the 1970s and 1980s, Ethiopia experienced civil conflicts and communist purges, which hindered its economy. The country has since recovered and now has the largest economy (by GDP) in East Africa, having the largest population in the region.
Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed awarded Shs 3bn Nobel Peace Prize
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Berit Reiss-Andersen, the chairperson of the five-member Norwegian Nobel Committee that awards the Peace Prize, said Abiy was named for his decisive initiatives to end his country’s conflict with Eritrea within months of his coming to office in 2018.
United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres applauded the committee’s choice.
Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed awarded Shs 3bn Nobel Peace Prize
“I have said often that winds of hope are blowing ever stronger across Africa. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is one of the main reasons why,” he said in a statement Friday.
The Nobel Committee also took note of Abiy’s push for reforms within Ethiopia, largely aimed at easing the government’s control of political discourse in the East African country.
“He spent his first 100 days as prime minister lifting the country’s state of emergency, granting amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, discontinuing media censorship, legalizing outlawed opposition groups, dismissing military and civilian leaders who were suspected of corruption, and significantly increasing the influence of women in Ethiopian political and community life,” the committee said.
The committee acknowledged that much work remains to strengthen democracy in Ethiopia, but said it hopes the peace agreement with Eritrea will lead to more positive changes for both countries.
The East African neighbours fought a brutal war from 1998 to 2000 and remained at bitter odds thereafter over unresolved land and border issues.
After Abiy came to power in April 2018, he said Ethiopia would comply with a 2002 ruling forcing it to cede territory, including the contested town of Badme. In July, he and Eritrean leader Isaias Afwerki signed a peace agreement officially ending hostilities.
William Davison, Ethiopia analyst for the International Crisis Group, said Abiy cannot rest on his laurels.
“[His] bold leadership has helped drive through positive changes in Ethiopia and achieve a rapprochement with Eritrea. But there is a lot of work to do to achieve a new domestic political settlement between fractious actors, and there are also major obstacles to advancing the Eritrea peace process, suggesting that Abiy’s hardest challenges lie ahead,” he said Friday.
Rights group Amnesty International said the Nobel prize “should push and motivate [Abiy] to tackle the outstanding human rights challenges that threaten to reverse the gains made so far. He must urgently ensure that his government addresses the ongoing ethnic tensions [in Ethiopia] that threaten instability and further human rights abuses.”
The Nobel Prize committee also recognized Abiy for his role in other peace and reconciliation processes in East and northeast Africa. Last year, Ethiopia contributed to the normalization of diplomatic ties between Djibouti and Eritrea after years of tension. In Sudan, he helped resolve an impasse between the ruling military council and opposition, paving the way for a power-sharing agreement.
Abiy, 43, came to power in April 2018 and began to implement sweeping reforms and changes in Ethiopian policies. In an interview with VOA’s Horn of Africa service in May 2019, Abiy acknowledged that he planned to be an agent of change.
“I don’t believe that it’s proper to stay in power for long periods of time. And as long as I have power, I believe that I should use that to change people’s lives. But within my efforts working to bring change, there may be errors — but all of my intention and action is aimed at elevating Ethiopia,” he said.
The prize of about $900,000 will be presented in Oslo on December 10. The Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences will be awarded on Monday, October 14.