Viewpoint

Revoke the Nobel Peace Prize from Ethiopia’s Abiy    

The Nobel committee should revoke the honor from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and speak out about the atrocities in Tigray.

When the Nobel committee awarded Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed the Nobel Peace Prize of 2019, many hoped the accolade would strengthen his resolve toward democracy and peace.

Others, including myself, however, were concerned. His decision to dissolve the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition signaled a consolidation of power and his rapprochement with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki was a harbinger of regional instability.

The Nobel Prize was awarded to Abiy for his “efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea.”

Ending a 20-year-old conflict between these two countries is worthy of much praise. Yet, by mid-2019, it had become evident that this ‘peace process’ with Eritrea had ulterior motives, charged by national politics and a tactical alliance with Isaias. It was intended to stifle a major political opponent inside Ethiopia, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

One would expect the Norwegian Nobel committee, an organization with a century-old tradition and a wide global network, to have conducted sufficient research into Abiy’s record since assuming office in 2018.  If so, the committee wouldn’t have missed the many clues between 2018 and 2019 that point to the fact that this is not a man of peace—but rather one who rules by deception, double-dealings, and disregard for the wellbeing of citizens.

War pact

When Abiy received the prize, one of his accomplishments read: “After 16 years of  “no war, no peace” between the two countries [Ethiopia and Eritrea], Abiy Ahmed broke the deadlock and accepted the decision. In September 2018, he and President Isaias signed a historic peace agreement.”

Those of us who know the region knew that this was not a peace deal but a war pact to destroy Tigray and its leaders. Isaias is not known as a peace-loving politician. More importantly, he harbors a grudge against Tigray and its leaders, especially those from the TPLF.

The TPLF was elected by 2.6 million people in September 2020 and had formed a popular regional government just weeks before the war in Tigray began.

When a Nobel Peace Prize is linked to a peace deal, it is customary for it to be shared by the two parties, but Isaias was not included in this one. It seems that the committee had taken note of the fact that since 1991, he has led a pariah state, sometimes referred to as “Africa’s North Korea” and ranked 180th out of 180 countries in the world press freedom index.

What the committee did not seem to have considered is Isaias’ malicious intentions for revenge, once Tigray and its leaders found themselves sandwiched between Eritrea and the rest of Ethiopia.

In Abiy, Isaias saw a formidable tool to achieve his goals of destroying Tigray and its leaders. Abiy also saw a great tactical tool in Isaias to weaken Tigray and its political elite in order to consolidate his power in Ethiopia and the region.

Consistent with what many have predicted, Abiy and Isaias have sadly, but successfully, transformed the “no war, no peace” situation into a full-blown civil war involving the Eritrean and Ethiopian military along with Amhara Special Forces. This is in addition to alleged support from Somali soldiers and the United Arab Emirates drones.

In essence, this is the first Nobel Prize-winning peace agreement that delivered a catastrophic war featuring probable war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Backtracked promises

The Nobel committee cited that Abiy, “granted an amnesty to political prisoners and abolished press censorship”.

This was in fact part of the sweeping reforms that were already promised by the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and Abiy’s predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn. As a member of the coalition, the TPLF voted in favor of the release of prisoners and Abiy’s appointment as the head of the EPRDF.

To our dismay, this trend didn’t last very long. Politicians and journalists alike have now been detained in the hundreds. Eskinder Nega, Bekele Gerba, and Jawar Mohamed are some prominent examples.

Part of the committee’s statement at the time read, “Democratization poses serious challenges in a country with 100 million inhabitants and more than 80 different ethnic groups. In 2019, Ethiopia, a country with no tradition of free elections and democracy, was still racked by major internal conflicts. At the time Abiy Ahmed received the Nobel Peace Prize, there was considerable suspense as to whether he would succeed in fulfilling his promise of free and fair elections in 2020.”

There would hardly be any suspense as the elections set for May 2020 were postponed under the pretext of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the election, postponed once more after that, is set to take place this June, arguably as the pandemic reaches its peak in Ethiopia.

Tigray went against this decision and conducted its regional elections in September 2020, which resulted in a landslide victory for the TPLF—an election Abiy’s government dubbed illegitimate and eventually led to the all-out war.

Catastrophic consequences

Seven months ago, Abiy declared war on Tigray region in what he called a “law and order operation” in response to what the federal government described as TPLF’s attack on the Northern Command of the Ethiopian military. In truth, the federal intervention had long been prepared. The war has continued to this day; thousands have been killed, millions more displaced, and scores of women and girls systematically and violently raped.

It has resulted in the destruction of private and public infrastructure, including houses of worship, and atrocities and war crimes are being committed on a massive scale. What makes this war especially disturbing is how it has targeted civilians, with international norms of engagement, including the Geneva Conventions, breached.

All this has been documented by human rights and humanitarian agencies and the reporters who have managed to visit the otherwise isolated region.

The question that has to be asked now must move past Abiy’s reasons for declaring the war but rather what the Nobel committee is awaiting to revoke this honor from him. How can it sit idly while one of its laureates breaches international humanitarian law and commits possible war crimes that horrify the world?

In addition to the unique elements of the ongoing tragedy in Tigray, it bears similarity to what the world witnessed in Rwanda and Syria: people are killed, raped, and starved because of their identity while infrastructure and heritage sites are destroyed in what appears to be an attempt to erase Tigray’s identity.

What has unfolded in the aftermath of Abiy’s peace prize is extremely frightening. The war has taken on a regional dimension and is likely to trigger the destabilization of the Horn and possibly the Red Sea region.

In 2019, the Norwegian committee, like many others, may have seen hope in Abiy. But like all those, at home and abroad, who had a fleeting glance of democracy in Ethiopia, the honorable committee was duped by the soft-spoken premier.

Required revisions

Today, in addition to the war in Tigray, hundreds are routinely dying across Ethiopia, especially in the Benishangul-Gumuz and Oromia regions, which are, in some areas, run by special militarized command posts as a result of significant ethnic tensions and volatility.

It is disheartening to see the Nobel Peace Prize has been given to a man who was planning a war on his own people and who is failing to protect innocent civilians across the country. Sadly, the prize has further emboldened Abiy in his campaign to consolidate power by coercion.

Millions are suffering, and Alfred Nobel is turning in his grave.

The Nobel committee’s bylaws do not allow for revocation, but I argue that it can change that.

I believe the bylaws could be amended, especially in light of what Abiy is doing in Tigray. At the very least, a firm condemnation of Abiy’s actions by the committee is long overdue.

The committee is yet to make a statement or acknowledge what has now clearly been revealed as a misjudgment. It has to live up to the noble and sacred heritage of the peace prize by doing the right thing and make a public stand to acknowledge the suffering of millions at the hands of one of its laureates.

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Main photo: Prime Minister Abiy at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony; Oslo, Norway; 10 December 2019; AFP

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About the author

Mistir Sew

This is a generic byline for all anonymous authors. The anonymity could be because they fear repercussions, as they are not authorized by their employers to express their views publicly, or for other reasons.

12 Comments

  • first of all revoking a Nobel prize doesn’t affect Abiys performance in crushing TPLF. Second, the war started by TPLF by organizing ethnic faction on northern command and killing over 40 thsound soliders in their sleep at the same time all over tigray region. Now, TPLF started Gruella fight. they are taking food from farmers and prohibit them to farm their land cause they think, big famine, will help their agenda. now, its become eminent Abiy will win this election and the terrorist supporters going ballistic.
    Please revok abiys nobel prize, but TPLF will never set its feet on addis ababa.

  • That Nobel prize is now stained by all the atrocities committed in Tigray, and the Nobel Committee with its premature judgment to give the award is also equally tarnished. It is unlikely the Committee will revoke the award. But the scale of the atrocities and crimes against humanity in Tigray might at some point place the Committee in an inescapable moral dilemma, then perhaps the Committee might issue a statement, a rebuke. The more practical rebuke has already come from the EU and the US about the widespread atrocities and using starvation as a weapon – these acts are considered war crimes and crimes against humanity, thus triggering restrictions and economic sanctions.

  • Dear journalists, news is written based on the truth not by hearsay! The fraticidal war broke out out of arrogance and delusion of grandeur by the old politicians. We have videos of mothers praying to avoid it. The maniacal managers did not touch the situation in the slightest, because convinced of winning it did not come close to the death of young boys aged 14 and up. The rifles on both sides do not spit water but destruction and death. The 27 years of Tplf sowed hatred, ethnic discrimination and torture. Journalistic lobbies write or copy and paste to those who pay them, without knowing who is right or wrong, in the meantime our sons / daughters died to save the arrogant and presumptuous. Every day diaries are programmed with painful and invented subjects to involve the outside world, to condemn Abiy Ahmed and tire us with this award. Unfortunately, the lobbi is a chopper machine, but it would take a shred of conscience. I know I ask a lot, meanwhile the children of the poor do the battle, because the children of the arrogant live in luxury abroad to pay the lobbyists. We Ethiopians want the truth because they belong to us and their suffering destroys us.

  • Abiy’s political revenge has morphed into a genocidal war against all Tigrayans, expanding into ever greater regional conflict. The Bete-Amhara irredentist goal of Amhara nationalists including NaMA, fuels this conflict and self-inflicted wounds of growing anti-Amhara sentiment among Oromos, as in Metekel, Welkait, Raya. Particularly interesting is Abiy’s use of Eritrian soldiers brutalizing Oromo civilians around Metekel and also facing off against Sudan in al-Fasqa. Abiy fears the loyalty of his own Oromo soldiers to fight OLF for example.

    The irony that Afwerki persecutes Pentecostals in Eritria, yet embraces Ethiopia’s Pentecostal “messiah,” should not be lost to any lucid mind capable of independent thinking.

    Not surprisingly, the only voices of reason within his administration, happen to be Oromo including army chief Birhanu Jula demanding immediate withdrawal of occupying Eritrian forces.

    The alliances are clear. Abiy, Afwerki, Amhara nationalists, and reluctantly Somalia… versus Tigray, Oromia, Sudan, Egypt, Djibouti, Kenya. History will remember Abiy as the man who destroyed Ethiopia and Eritria, birthing 4 new African nations in its place: Tigray Republic, Oromia, Amhara, and Greater Afaria.

    Sadly, Ethiopia is already dead, as Yugoslavia. Abiy is none other than Ethiopia’s Trump, delusionally dividing the nation to keep power at ALL cost. Everyone gets seduced by a fake messiah sometimes, especially quasi-intellectual apologists, throwing uncreative propaganda at the wall like spaghetti to see what sticks.

    • As Staunch supporter of TPLF, you are living in hallucinations and trying to hype-up TPLF ruminants.
      It’s obviously you are not willing to write TPLF’s contribution to the situation at the ground. Keep on longing and yawning while Ethiopia will move and thrive!

  • Mister Sew.

    I can see that you have demanded “The committee is yet to make a statement or acknowledge what has now clearly been revealed as a misjudgment. It has to live up to the noble and sacred heritage of the peace prize by doing the right thing and make a public stand to acknowledge the suffering of millions at the hands of one of its laureates.” – guess then you have chosen a wrong title- take me as an example- just jumped to conclusions before I finished reading the whole articles –

    my mistake sorry for that. Forget my earlier comment- but choose a correct title will be my advice then. That is where you sell your piece first!

  • An impossible request. Would have been better to demand they come out and condemn Abiys war crimes and take a diplomatic distance for the sake of the prize , the institute and Norway as a peaceful nation. We Tegarus in Norway have tried that and if you have noticed Kjetil tronvoll has demanded for the committee members to step down as he know revoking isn’t going to happen unless Alfred Nobel resurrects like “TPLF” and change his testimony. You have spent your precious time for nothing. worthy to consider the probability of the outcome before writing such a pieces- a brotherly advice from Norway!

  • The longstanding treachery and intransigence of the the TPLF entity are not something that easily condoned or entertained for dismissal. That doesn’t meant majority of the innocent Tigaru civilians had anything to do with their wholesale of the past criminality and power abuses. But the way, the mind-boggling thing now is how Abiy’s fate become so closely and so suddenly tied with that notorious perennial warmonger and despot Isias Afworke of Eritrea and how he can untangle himself from him. I suspect he is in deep sh..t with him at this point and there is no way he can free up himself or can do anything about it. This reminds an anecdote about two petty street criminals I heard long time ago. One was hardened, repeated offender while the other was a novice in the trade or first time offender . As the police catch and handcuffed their hand together and paraded in the town center back and forth to show their trophy to everybody before taking to the police station, the amateur one broke down and terrified due to the public embarrassment of the situation and fear from the jail. On the other hand,.the veteran thief was exited about the onlookers of the street scene he longed for and about his new partner in the crime. because he found a good company from the neighborhood at last. The moral of the story is that is it now just coincidence Abiy’s erratic behavior, running all directions and saying or promising all things under the sun , including unattainable democratic polls , inviolable sovereignty issues heavenly intervention and instant prosperity in the name of the great Gospel’s miracle and so on, while on the otther hand. Isias is smiling ninfectiously and aaying little or nnothing.at all

  • The longstanding treachery and intransigence of the the TPLF entity are not something that easily condoned or entertained for dismissal. That doesn’t meant majority of innocent Tigaru civilians had anything to do with their wholesale of ther past criminality and power abuses. But the way, the mind-boggling thing now is how Abiy’s fate become so closely and so suddenly ied with that notorious perennial warmonger and despot Isias Afworke. Of Eritrea and how he can untangle himself from him. I suspect he is in deep sh..t with him at point and there is no way he can free up himself or csn do anything about it. This reminds an anecdote about two petty street criminals I heard long time ago. One was hardened, repeated offender while the other was a novice in the trade or first time offender . As the police handcuffed their hand together and paraded in the town center back and forth to show their trophy everybody before taking to the police station, the armature one broke down and terrified due to the public embarrassment of the situation and fear o
    from the jail. On the other hand,.the veteran thief was exited about the onlookers of the street scene he longed for and about his new pattern of the crime. because he found a good company from the neighborhood at last. The moral of the story is that is just coincidence now Abiy’s erratic behavior, running all directions and saying or promising all things udr thr sun , including unattainable democratic polls , inviolable sovereignty issues heavenly intervention and instant prosperity in the name of the great Gospel miracle so on, while on otther hand. Isias is smiling ninfectiously and aaying little or nnothing.at all

  • The mother of all evil is/are TPLF
    I am not fun of ABIY’S politic but
    My question is why TPLF has refused the mediation of ethiopian elder and religion father and they did unilateral elections, show drills of military exercises. Refused to give fugitive criminal.

  • It is always funny to me the amount of length people like this go to absolve TPLF or even make it a legitmate entity by repeatdely metioning the fake “election” it conducted. We were here then, we are here now and we will continue being here till our time on planet earth is up. Why am I saying this? Cause all the things this “mister sew” tried to absolve TPLF and put the blame squarely on the PM was done right infront of our eyes…go write a book or something, at least that way you can make money of your bullshit. Then again who is to say that your not doing so now, looking @ you W. Davidson

    • What was said by Dhuga is alright. the contents of most of viewpoints being posted by this website are of intention to face-saving TPLF. So it’s has became obvious that they are written by TPLF members and are posted with cover-ups or under pseudo names. After all the finding father of the Webb Mr. William Davison is one among staunch foreign supports of TPLF who considers them as untouchables! they figured TPLF as indomitable; and now they are troubled to believe that they are practically defeated.
      All writings posted by such people in different media intentionally disregard deliberate arrogant misdeeds of TPLF which were critically contributing factors to the current situation at which our brothers and sisters in Tigray are suffering from. leaving aside their unspeakable deeds during their 27 years stay in power, for us what they did in recent two years are more than enough. they were adamantly doing countless illegal deeds from defying court orders to brutally attacking the federal defense forces guarding the people of the region for over twenty years. apart the belligerent acts they were doing in the region, we have been bleeding for uncountable losses of lives and destruction of resources due to TPLF orchestrated and instigated violence throughout the nation. It is miserable that people writing such articles now were deaf and dumb when TPLF was leading atrocities from massacre of Somali region, Jigjiga, Moyale… , Gedio …, West Welega…, North Gondar… all were the hand makings of TPLF.
      Anyways stop blame shifting, let us pull out our feet from the mud we tuck-in and let us look forward for reconciliation towards heeling of one another’s wound and take our beloved country forward.
      God bless Ethiopia and its people!!!

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