CNN brands Ethiopian Prime Minister ‘global pariah’: How The Norwegian Nobel Committee misled the world on Abiy Ahmed

CNN on Tuesday described Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali who won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize but has pursued war and death rather than peace and reconciliation in the Tigray region as a “global pariah.”

By awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize, The Norwegian Nobel Committee seems to have misled the world by painting Abiy Ahmed as a man of peace rather than an agent of instability and war.

CNN recalled how in July 2018, just three months after he was appointed leader of Africa’s second-most populous country, Abiy waved to a packed basketball arena at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, part of a whirlwind three-city tour of the United States to woo the diaspora.

With the crowd chanting “Abiy, Abiy,” and waving Ethiopia’s tricolor flag and cheering, Ethiopia’s new prime minister, dressed in a white blazer with gold trim could be seen smiling broadly.

“Excitement was surging into an almost religious fervor around the young politician, who promised to bring peace, prosperity and reconciliation to a troubled corner of Africa and a nation on the brink of crisis,” CNN wrote on Tuesday.

It was justified as Abiy “kickstarted a flurry of ambitious reforms — freeing thousands of political prisoners, lifting restrictions on the press, welcoming back exiles and banned opposition parties, appointing women to positions in his cabinet, opening up the country’s tightly-controlled economy to new investment and negotiating peace with neighboring Eritrea.”

But it did not last long. For the past 10 months, Ethiopia has been ravaged by war, deaths and famine in the Tigray region, mainly because Abiy has rejected all calls for a peaceful resolution to the devastating war.

On Sunday, a shocking report said thousands of Tigrayans are being put into “concentration camps,” tortured and butchered as part of an ethnic purge in Ethiopia.

It was the latest development in a violent conflict that has been going on for 10 months between the Ethiopian military and the Tigray Defense Force (TDF).

The report in the Telegraph quoted one man who escaped from one of the camps by lying about his ethnicity as saying that there were at least 250 detainees there.

“We were 250 detainees. The Amhara forces take detainees every night and bring new ones. The ones they take never come back,” he told The Telegraph.

The report quoted a dozen eyewitnesses as saying that occupying ethnic Amhara forces from the neighboring region have been going “door-to-door” and rounding up ethnic Tigrayans, torturing them and killing them. Amhara forces still control the city of Humera in the Tigray region.

The Telegraph said Amhara forces had taken thousands of Tigrayan men, women and children to makeshift concentration camps.

It said some of the prisoners had their limbs cut and their bodies mutilated before they were dumped into mass graves.

The lingering conflict began in November when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali launched an offensive against Tigrayan defense forces, asserting that it was in response to Tigrayan forces attacking military camps, although his government had been feuding with the TPLF, the main political party in Tigray, for months.

On June 28, the Ethiopian government declared a unilateral ceasefire as the TPLF made unexpected gains, recapturing much of Tigray from the army.

But since then, there has been little progress made on the ground to find a lasting solution to the conflict, American officials say.

Last week, the United States said that while the Ethiopian government continues to block humanitarian assistance to Tigray, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) offensives in Amhara and Afar regions are displacing civilians there.

The United States has been the most vocal against military offensives there from all sides, and has argued that there is no military solution to the conflict in the northern Ethiopian region. But calls for negotiations and a cessation of hostilities have not been heeded.

Last Wednesday, the United States Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power spoke with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland Pekka Haavisto, and both discussed “the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia and the need to continue coordination to help alleviate the suffering of the Ethiopian people.”

“Administrator Power discussed her recent visit to Ethiopia and the urgent need to work together to press the Government of Ethiopia to remove bureaucratic obstruction to humanitarian operations so that aid—including desperately needed food assistance—can reach Tigray,” spokesperson Rebecca Chalif said.

Chalif added that Administrator Power and Minister Haavisto also discussed “the humanitarian impact of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) offensives in Amhara and Afar regions, and Administrator Power emphasized that USAID is providing humanitarian support to newly displaced Ethiopians in those regions.”

“They also discussed their shared commitment to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan and ongoing assistance efforts in Haiti following the August 14th earthquake,” Chalif added.

At a separate press briefing in Washington D.C., the Biden administration also lamented the security situation on the ground, asserting that things have worsened since Power visited Ethiopia nearly a month ago.

“Nearly one month after USAID Administrator Samantha Power was on the ground there in Ethiopia, she emphasized the dire humanitarian catastrophe that faces over 5.2 million people. The situation on the ground has only gotten worse since then. From the beginning of the crisis in northern Ethiopia, the United States has called for a negotiated ceasefire and unhindered humanitarian access,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters. 

“The truth is that access has been limited to but a trickle by the Government of Ethiopia. Warehouses sit empty in Tigray because the government has put a stranglehold around the region,” Price said, adding that “trucks with lifesaving assistance continue to remain idle.”

“As Administrator Power herself lamented a month ago, while desperate Ethiopians slide closer to famine. While we are concerned about any and all reports of humanitarian assistance being diverted from those for whom it is intended, humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach populations in need by the Government of Ethiopia and all parties. That includes the TPLF. These parties must cease the violence that only worsens the current situation,” Price added.

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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