Abiy Ahmed ‘completely’ doesn’t deserve Nobel Peace Prize, Oromo leaders say in ‘explosive’ tell-all interview, call for ‘interim government’ to stop Ethiopia from ‘imploding’

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize “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 Norwegian Nobel Institute says on its website.

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at Asmara International Airport, July 9, 2018. Photo obtained from social media 
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at Asmara International Airport, July 9, 2018. Photo obtained from social media

The institute refers to Abiy Ahmed Ali, a long-time political activist who was elected to the Ethiopian parliament in 2010, before becoming Prime Minister in 2018, as the leader of “the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.”

Indeed, when Abiy took the post of Prime Minister of Ethiopia on April 2, 2018, he tried to restore a democratic system, released thousands of political prisoners, promised to end arbitrary arrests and detentions that had become the norm in Ethiopia, and signed a historic peace agreement in September 2018 with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki over the border dispute between the two neighbors after 16 years of “no war, no peace.”

An international arbitration commission had ruled in favor of Eritrea in 2002, but the Ethiopian government refused to accept the ruling, and the stance prolonged the conflict and animosity between both countries.

The Norwegian Nobel Institute saw the peace initiative between Eritrea and Ethiopia, as well as Abiy’s engagement in other peace and reconciliation efforts in and around the Horn of Africa as many good steps in the right direction.

For instance, apart from granting amnesty to political prisoners, he also abolished press censorship and focused on empowering women. The country’s president, the Federal Supreme Court president and half of the ministers were women, including the Minister of Peace.

abiy ahmed 
Abiy Ahmed

For a country with over 100 million inhabitants and more than 80 different ethnic groups where women had not received their fair share of power, Abiy was hailed around the world as a hero.

His promise, for someone who was not directly elected by the Ethiopian people, to hold free and fair parliamentary elections in 2020, raised his profile in the international community. He was seen as the hope, the beacon of light the Horn of Africa had been waiting for.

That was then. These days, questions are being raised about Abiy’s suitability for the Nobel Peace Prize, and on whether Ethiopia still qualifies to be called a democracy.

Abiy himself has come under fire for failing to hold the 2020 parliamentary elections due to the coronavirus pandemic, and for extending his own term until the virus can be crushed and elections can be held.

He has also come under intense scrutiny for leading a violent ethnic cleansing in the Tigray region and imprisoning thousands of people, including opposition figures in Oromia, the most populous region in Ethiopia with over 40 percent of the country’s population.

A U.S. government report concluded that, under the Prime Minister’s leadership, the Ethiopian government along with allied militia fighters led a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing in Tigray.

The report, first obtained by The New York Times, said, “Whole villages were severely damaged or completely erased.”

The report documented fighters who moved to the region in support of the Prime Minister and were “deliberately and efficiently rendering Western Tigray ethnically homogenous through organized use of force and intimidation,” leaving behind “a land of looted houses and deserted villages where tens of thousands of people are uncounted for.”

President Joe Biden salutes as he walks along the Colonnade of the White House on Friday, March 12, 2021, en route to the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz) 
President Joe Biden salutes as he walks along the Colonnade of the White House on Friday, March 12, 2021, en route to the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

On Tuesday this week, Amnesty International rendered a damning verdict on the continuing humanitarian catastrophe in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and called on world leaders to “speak out against the raft of likely war crimes and crimes against humanity” taking place there.

The human rights organization urged African and other world leaders to “urgently speak out and do more to stem the ferocious tide of human rights and international humanitarian law violations in the armed conflict that has now raged for six months in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.”

It said since the fighting broke out on November 4, 2020, thousands of civilians have been killed, hundreds of thousands of people have been internally displaced within Tigray, and 63,000 refugees have fled to Sudan.

Amnesty International and other organizations have documented a string of serious human rights violations that include war crimes and likely crimes against humanity. There are also numerous credible reports of women and girls being subjected to sexual violence, including gang rape by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers.

“Six months on from the start of the conflict in Tigray, there is no lack of credible evidence of human rights and international humanitarian law violations, but the response from the African Union and United Nations has been woefully insufficient,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.- Advertisement –

Muchena added: “The UN Security Council stalled for months before finally expressing concern about the increasingly dire situation in Tigray. The African Union and governments in the region, meanwhile, have done very little to speak out against the raft of likely war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The escalating crises within Ethiopia, and between Ethiopia and its neighbors Sudan and Egypt over the construction of a dam, prompted the Biden administration to dispatch Jeffrey Feltman, its special envoy for the Horn of Africa, to the region through May 13.

The recently appointed ambassador is currently meeting with officials from those governments, as well as the United Nations and the African Union, in addition to political stakeholders and humanitarian groups, even as Abiy plans to hold elections soon.

Jeffrey D. Feltman speaking at The London Conference on Afghanistan in 2014. Photo taken by Patrick Tsui 
Jeffrey D. Feltman speaking at The London Conference on Afghanistan in 2014. Photo taken by Patrick Tsui

All these moves come as concerned Oromos in North America and Europe have written an open letter to the United States Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken, President Joseph R. Biden’s Horn of Africa special envoy Jeffrey Feltman and United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres expressing “grave concern” over the safety of Mr. Dawud Ibsa, the Chairman of the Oromo Liberation Front, and his family “who are under Prime Minister Abiy’s security siege.”

They called on the Biden administration and the United Nations to “pressure the Abiy government to ensure his safety during this volatile time for the country.”

“Mr. Dawud Ibsa is the chairman of the Oromo Liberation Front – A legally registered major political opposition party in Ethiopia representing more than 50 million Oromos,” they wrote in their open letter. “Mr. Dawud Ibsa has been under house arrest for the last one year in his residence in Addis Ababa at times with all his communications cut off and constantly under surveillance. On the night of May 3, 2021 at 9PM local time in Addis Ababa, Mr. Abiy Ahmed ordered his military to raid his residence without any court order. It is puzzling to us why they needed to raid the house of someone under their constant surveillance and guarded by government security in the middle of the night.”

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets virtually with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ambassador Raychelle Omamo, from the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on April 27, 2021. State Department photo by Ron Przysucha 
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken meets virtually with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ambassador Raychelle Omamo, from the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on April 27, 2021. State Department photo by Ron Przysucha

It was in that context that Today News Africa correspondents in Washington DC Simon Ateba and Kristi Pelzel sat down with Professor Merera Gudina from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Dr. Bersisa Berri from London, the United Kingdom, for a tell-all interview.

Merera Gudina is a professor of political science and Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress,  and chairman of a coalition, Ethiopian Democratic Unity Forum. He says of himself that he is “leading the struggle of the organizations to ensure respect of human and political rights and to bring about genuine democratic system in Ethiopia,” while Bersisa Berri is  a Doctor of Business Administration, Senior member of the Oromo Liberation Front, a Member of Oromo National Council and Head of Diplomatic Relations.

He says he is “promoting the human and political rights of Oromia citizens and Ethiopian nations and nationalities at the world stage and struggling for freedom and democracy for all.”

In the tell it all interview, both Oromo leaders concluded that Abiy Ahmed has failed and is unable to hold the country together. They recommended a true national dialogue that may lead to an “interim government” where all stakeholders from all tribes will be represented.

Dr. Bersisa Berri asserted that the Ethiopia Prime Minister has turned himself into a dictator, concluding that he does not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

“Abiy Ahmed has ‘gone’ into more serious atrocities against people and the international communities have been watching. He completely doesn’t deserve the Nobel Peace Prize,” he said. “Abiy Ahmed wants to be a one man dictator and only will listen to those with his views, and there is no negotiation or debate.”

“There should be an in interim government and we must make effort quickly because in a few months time after the election Ethiopia will be disintegrated,” he warned.

Professor Merera Gudina argued that under Abiy Ahmed, human rights violations have escalated, including extrajudicial killings.

“Under Ahmed there are human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, thousands of people held by the police without cause or court order. Really, especially in the Oromo region, the human rights violations are massive.”

Dr. Berri added: “The human rights situation in Ethiopia is extremely dangerous at this time, and since Abiy Ahmed came to power.”

Berri said constant harassment by the government, killings and rapes are frequent these days in Ethiopia, especially in Oromo and Tigray regions.

He rejected the terrorism labeling against the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an Ethiopian political party established in 1973 by Oromo nationalists to promote self-determination for the Oromo people against the Abyssinian colonial rule who believe that the Oromo people constitute a united nation by common descent, history, culture and language.

“This labeling of terrorism is one of the manipulations of the ruling class government,” Berri said.

“In 2009 the terrorist law was just declared to isolate opposition groups and legitimize the atrocities” of those in power, Berri added, rejecting also an allegation that there is a relationship between OLF and OLF-Shane.

“The two groups already stated that they are not connected. In 2016 I stayed in prison for working with terrorists, they claimed, and so called enemies of the government. They government conveniently uses the word terrorism,” added professor Gudina.

President Joe Biden walks with Vice President Kamala Harris across the West Executive Avenue at the White House Monday, March 29, 2021, following the President’s remarks in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) 
President Joe Biden walks with Vice President Kamala Harris across the West Executive Avenue at the White House Monday, March 29, 2021, following the President’s remarks in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Both Professor Gudina and Dr. Berri called on the Biden administration to insist on the need for a national dialogue that will include all Ethiopians, warning that without inclusion, achieving the much desired peace will remain an illusion.

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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