Nobel Peace Prize winning Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed under fire for ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was awarded the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize for “his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation.” However, he has recently become the subject of intense scrutiny after multiple reports have found him responsible for leading violent ethnic cleansing in the Tigray Region.

In the entire history of the Nobel Peace Prize, which has been around for well over a century, the award has never been revoked and according to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, “No appeals may be made against the decision of a prize-awarding body with regard to the award of a prize.”

The Prime Minister of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia H.E. Mr. Abiy Ahmed arrives in Sochi to take part in the Russia–Africa Summit in October 2019 Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS

Abiy’s recent actions taken as Prime Minster have received widespread condemnation from the international community and raise the question of whether, for the first time in history, a Nobel Peace Prize ought to be revoked.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed received the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize specifically for “his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.”

Less than a year after accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, Abiy and the Ethiopian government began carrying out genocidal attacks against civilians with the cooperation of Eritrean forces.

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

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

The report documents fighters who moved to the region in support of the Prime Minister and are “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 gets briefed by Liz Sherwood Randall, Julie Rodriguez and participates in a conference phone call with governors affected by the snow storm in the middle of the country in the Oval Office, Feb. 16, 2021, in Washington. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) 
President Joe Biden gets briefed by Liz Sherwood Randall, Julie Rodriguez and participates in a conference phone call with governors affected by the snow storm in the middle of the country in the Oval Office, Feb. 16, 2021, in Washington. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

According to Alfred Nobel’s will, the Nobel Peace Prize is to go to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

When reading this description and comparing it to the developments currently unfolding in Ethiopia, the irony is obvious. The same man who was just recently given the highest and most prestigious award for fostering peace is now leading a genocide against his own people, resulting in countless civilian deaths, injuries, and displacements.

According to the committee, Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to resolve conflict with Eritrea, reaching a peace deal which “will help to bring about positive change for the entire populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea.”

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has fallen dramatically short of this vision. Instead of leading his nation toward positive change, he has used his power to carry out ethnic cleansing accompanied by innumerable killings, sexual assaults, displacements, and other human rights abuses. He is personally responsible for these atrocities and may become the first ever Nobel laureate to face charges of war crimes.

 In what has been referred to as the massacre in Aksum, “Over an approximately 24-hour period, on 28-29 November 2020, Eritrean troops operating in the Ethiopian city of Aksum killed many hundreds of civilians,” according to Amnesty International.

“The events in Aksum were the culmination of a wave of violations carried out since 19 November, when Eritrean and Ethiopian forces entered Aksum together, after indiscriminately shelling the city and firing at those who tried to flee,” Amnesty International concluded.

According to numerous sources, multiple eyewitness accounts of the massacre describe dead bodies littering the streets for days before being stripped to the bone by wild hyenas.

On February 10th, Human Rights Watch concluded that Ethiopian federal forces carried out indiscriminate shelling of urban areas in the Tigray Region in November of 2020. These artillery attacks struck homes, hospitals, schools, and markets- killing at least 83 civilians, including women and children, and wounding over 300 more.

“These attacks have shattered civilian lives in Tigray and displaced thousands of people, underscoring the urgency for ending unlawful attacks and holding those responsible to account,” said Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Based on numerous reports, Abiy Ahmed is responsible for countless deaths and human rights violations. The Nobel laureate has been considered by many to be the hope of Ethiopia, a country that has long been subject to war and ethnic tensions. However, the allegations made against Abiy do not depict him as a man of peace but rather a vile war criminal.

According to these reports, Abiy is no humanitarian or agent of peace. Instead, he has shown himself to be a catalyst of violence, sowing seeds of division throughout Ethiopia.

While it is difficult to calculate the exact toll of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s actions, thousands of civilians are believed to have been killed since he first launched a military operation in the Tigray region.

Whether Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Nobel Peace Prize is revoked or not, he is most definitely not working toward peace and positive change for the people of Africa. Rather, he is a despot who has worsened division within Ethiopia and has shown no regard or respect for human life in doing so.

Over the course of the last year, Abiy Ahmed has acted with little consideration of the Ethiopian constitution and the actions he has taken as Prime Minister have not led to a more democratic Ethiopia as he had previously promised. Quite the opposite, his leadership has brought about a large-scale humanitarian crisis resulting from numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Recently, international pressure on Abiy has escalated and the events unfolding in Ethiopia have been drawn into the spotlight. In a statement made Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken indicated that the United States is “deeply concerned by the worsening humanitarian crisis” in Ethiopia and that the United States.

“We strongly condemn the killings, forced removals and displacements, sexual assaults, and other extremely serious human rights violations and abuses by several parties that multiple organizations have reported in Tigray,” Blinken asserted.

Secretary of State Blinken engaged in a call Tuesday with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the Nobel laureate turned war leader, to address such concerns and issues.

“Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to emphasize the United States’ concern about the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Noting the growing number of credible reports of atrocities and human rights violations and abuses, the Secretary urged the Ethiopian government to take immediate, concrete steps to protect civilians, including refugees, and to prevent further violence,” via the spokesperson for the Department of State.

“Secretary Blinken pressed for the immediate end to hostilities and the withdrawal of outside forces from Tigray, including Amhara regional security forces and Eritrean troops. Secretary Blinken also asked that the Government of Ethiopia work with the international community to facilitate independent, international, and credible investigations into reported human rights abuses and violations and to hold those responsible accountable.”

Previously, the Ethiopian foreign ministry has rebuffed similar demands made by the United States, asserting that Ethiopia is a sovereign nation and dealing with these matters is a responsibility that belongs solely to the Ethiopian government.

Noah Pitcher is a global politics correspondent for Today News Africa covering the U.S. government, United Nations, African Union, and other actors involved in international developments, political controversies, and humanitarian issues.

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