On 11th October 2019, Ethiopia’s president Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize thanks to the peace agreement he negotiated last year with Eritrea, who they border. This represents a significant achievement for the 43-year-old president, the youngest country leader on the African continent, and marks a new beginning for diplomatic ties between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
As a result of Abiy Ahmed’s efforts to mend unfriendly relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea, he was chosen as the winner of the 100th Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The committee congratulated Ahmed’s “decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea” which enabled peace to be agreed. To successfully establish peace between the two states, Ahmed promoted the idea of medemer, i.e. unity and cooperation. Abiy Ahmed will formally receive the award this coming December.
HISTORY OF TENSION BETWEEN ETHIOPIA AND ERITREA
Before the peace agreement negotiated last year, there had been a military stalemate between Ethiopia and Eritrea for two decades following the border war of 1998-2000. The conflict was responsible for many deaths, and was centred on the disputed border town of Zalambessa. Despite the ruling of the 2002 Hague boundary commission, which considered Zalambessa as part of Ethiopian territory, there continued to be skirmishes on the border, such as in January 2010.
THE ETHIOPIA-ERITREA PEACE AGREEMENT
On 8th July 2018, Ahmed met the Eritrean president Isaiah Afwerki at the bilateral summit (meeting between two countries). After agreeing to sign a joint declaration that would officially end the border conflict, both presidents hugged each other, representing the end of the stalemate between the two countries.
The key points of the agreement signed on the 9th June 2018 at the bilateral summit were:
- The end of the state of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea
- To resume transport, trade and communication links
- To implement the boundary decision between Eritrea and Ethiopia
- To ensure that both countries cooperate in maintaining regional peace
- The reopening of the Eritrean Embassy in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa in July 2018 was done through a public ceremony in which Abiy Ahmed handed Isaias Afwerki the key, representing another symbolic gesture of the newly established peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
REACTIONS TO THE AGREEMENT
The signing of the agreement was enthusiastically welcomed by many Ethiopians and Eritreans, some of whom embraced each other at two of the newly reopened crossing points between the two states. In the Eritrean capital of Asmara, Abiy Ahmed received a huge welcome by the Eritrean public.
Ahmed’s success in ending a 20-year dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea is an inspiration to all those who which to see the end of similar disputes across the world.