Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end almost two decades of conflict with neighboring Eritrea.
Abiy was honored for his “efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea,” the Oslo-based Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a statement Friday. It’s the second successive year the prize has gone to an African — in 2018 Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege was the joint winner of the award for his work against sexual violence.
Abiy, 43, became Africa’s youngest leader when he was appointed prime minister in March 2018. He immediately set about implementing a swathe of economic and political reforms aimed at opening up the economy to increased foreign investment and freeing up the political space for opposition parties.
Three months later, he made an historic visit to the Eritrean capital, Asmara, and met President Isaias Afwerki, to close a bloody chapter in the nation’s history: a 1998-2000 border war between the two states claimed as many as 100,000 lives. The nations have clashed sporadically since then and armed rebel groups in each others’ countries.
Born on Aug. 15, 1976, in the small town of Beshasha in Ethiopia’s Oromia state, Abiy holds master degrees in business administration and transformational leadership and a PhD in traditional conflict resolution. He’s served as a lieutenant-colonel in the Ethiopian National Defense Force, an acting director of the country’s cyber-security intelligence agency and science and technology minister.
Since taking over as prime minister of Africa’s oldest nation state, Abiy has overseen plans to open up the telecommunications, sugar, power and other industries to private investors. He’s also scrapped bans on opposition and rebel groups, and purged allegedly corrupt officials.
While an unbanning of opposition and rebel factions stoked long-suppressed rivalries among ethnic groups, he’s offered a salve by appointing a cabinet that includes representatives from historically marginalized communities, half of them women.
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Past laureates include former U.S. President Barack Obama and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The peace prize, along with awards in literature, physics and medicine, was created by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel and first awarded in 1901. The economics prize, set to be revealed on Monday, was instituted by the Swedish central bank.
— With assistance by Sveinung Sleire