Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end almost two decades of conflict with neighboring Eritrea.
Abiy was honored 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 Oslo-based Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a statement Friday. It’s the second successive year the prize has gone to an African — in 2018 Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege was the joint winner of the award for his work against sexual violence.
Abiy, 43, became Africa’s youngest leader when he was appointed prime minister in March 2018. He immediately set about implementing a swathe of economic and political reforms aimed at opening up the economy to increased foreign investment and freeing up the political space for opposition parties.
Three months later, he made an historic visit to the Eritrean capital, Asmara, and met President Isaias Afwerki, to close a bloody chapter in the nation’s history: a 1998-2000 border war between the two states claimed as many as 100,000 lives. The nations have clashed sporadically since then and armed rebel groups in each others’ countries.
“Since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed assumed political leadership in April 2018, he has made peace, forgiveness and reconciliation key policy components of his administration,” Abiy’s office said in a statement after the award was announced.
In his role as premier, Abiy has overseen plans to open up the telecommunications, sugar, power and other industries to private investors. He’s also scrapped bans on opposition and rebel groups, and purged allegedly corrupt officials.
Born on Aug. 15, 1976, in the small town of Beshasha in Ethiopia’s Oromia state, Abiy holds master degrees in business administration and transformational leadership and a Ph.D in traditional conflict resolution. He’s served as a lieutenant-colonel in the Ethiopian National Defense Force, an acting director of the country’s cyber-security intelligence agency and science and technology minister.
Past laureates include former President Barack Obama and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.