Norman Sempijja, Prof. University of Navarra Law School
An example to his contemporaries
Albert Nobel in his Will in 1895 made it specific that the prize should go to "the person who has done the most or best to advance fellowship among nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the establishment and promotion of peace congresses"
Indeed it was great news to know that the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali has been awarded this prestigious prize for he is a perfect candidate and an example to his contemporaries.
This is a massive boost for the cause for good governance in Africa especially as the continent has been viewed for decades as conflict ridden with dictators and lacking in home grown solutions to its problems.
Prime Minister Abiy has bucked the trend, right from the onset (April 2018) he set about reforming the country and some of the policies he brought in were unthinkable awhile ago. Ethiopia had been going through internal challenges like the conflict between the Oromos and Gedeo. Not to forget the old guard political class hailing mainly from Tigray that were resistant to democratic transition. Other challenges were centred around the state of war with Eritrea which broke free from Ethiopia in 1993. Moreover as the seat of the African Union Ethiopia has been haunted by the fact that it has failed to take leadership in the region and continent.
Therefore Abiy’s reforms like lifting of the state of emergency, ordering the release of thousands of prisoners, allowing exiled dissidents to return home and allowing freedom of information exchanges proved pivotal in changing the image about Ethiopia. He has also advocated for term limits for Prime Ministers.
Yet it was the move towards ending the decades long state of war with Eritrea that showcased his statesmanship. On top of that he has fostered cooperation with neighbouring states in the region except South Sudan. Therefore he is slowly but surely establishing Ethiopia as a regional power that pursues cooperation and peace with its neighbours. Michael Woldemariam (Foreign Affairs 2018) even went further to note that “Abiy’s moves toward political liberalization may create new public pressure for reform within Ethiopia’s neighbors or even prompt them to rethink their autocratic practices.”
This brings me to the overall African context, African states are learning from each other in the areas of good governance which in return spurs cooperation and economic development. Autocratic leaders are becoming endangered species and emerging dynamic leaders are charting a new course in the continent by generating African solution to African problems.
With some of the fastest growing economies in the world today good governance and regional cooperation are crucial to development of African states. Thus the Nobel peace prize is a welcome gesture of appreciation of the efforts by Prime minister Abiy from the rest of the world.
In conclusion, Prime Minister Abiy still has a long way to go and there are internal forces that are resistant to the reforms hence the recent assassination attempts on him and his supporters. Ethiopia still has ethnic tensions so the road ahead is still rough and full of danger. But as Richard Nixon (1975) once said; “It takes courage, and great courage, to fight in war, and we admire that ... It also takes courage, a different kind of courage, to wage peace. Congratulations to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmedi Ali showing that different kind of courage to make peace both within Ethiopia and with the neighbours.