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Norman Sempijja, Professor of Law at the University of Navarra School

An example for his contemporaries

Albert Nobel in his 1985 will made it clear that the award should be awarded to "the person who has done the most or the best work to promote fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of existing armies and the establishment and conduct of peace processes".

Sat, 12 Oct 2019 15:38:00 +0000 Published in Diario de Navarra

It was great news to learn that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali had been awarded this prestigious award as he is a perfect candidate and an example to his contemporaries.

This represents a massive boost to good governance efforts in Africa, a continent that for decades has been seen as a territory dominated by dictators and lacking local solutions to its own problems.

Prime Minister Abiy has bucked that trend since the beginning of his term in April 2018, proposing reforms and implementing some policies that would have been unthinkable before. Ethiopia was grappling with internal obstacles, such as the conflict between the Oromo and Gideons. Nor should we forget the old political class that resisted a democratic transition from Tigray. Other obstacles were linked to the war with Eritrea, which seceded from Ethiopia in 1993. Also, as the seat of the African Union, Ethiopia had been tormented by its failure to become the leader of the region and the continent.

Thus, some of Abiy's reforms, such as lifting the state of emergency, releasing thousands of prisoners, allowing exiled dissidents to return home and establishing freedom of expression, were key in changing Ethiopia's perception. Abiy also advocated the establishment of limited terms of office for the prime minister.

However, it was the process of ending the decades of war with Eritrea that confirmed and consolidated its governing capacities. In addition, Abiy has promoted cooperation with neighbouring states in the region, except for South Sudan. He is thus slowly turning Ethiopia into a regional power that seeks cooperation and peace with its neighbours. Michael Woldemariam (Foreing Affaris, 2018) went further and stated that 'Abiy's steps towards political liberalisation could create new pressure on Ethiopia's neighbours and even lead them to question his autocratic practices'.   

This brings me to the general context of Africa. African states are learning from each other about good governance, which stimulates cooperation and economic development . Autocratic leaders are becoming an endangered species and new dynamic leaders are ushering in a new era on the continent by generating African solutions to African problems. Good governance and regional cooperation are two crucial factors in achieving the continent's development , especially as Africa is home to the fastest growing economies in the world. The award Nobel Peace Prize is therefore a gesture of appreciation and recognition of Prime Minister Abiy's efforts by the rest of the world.

In conclusion, Prime Minister Abiy still has a long way to go and there are still internal forces resisting his reforms, evident in the recent assassination attempts against him and his supporters. Ethiopia still has ethnic tensions, so the road ahead is still winding and dangerous. But, as Richard Nixon (1975) once said: "It takes courage, and lots of it, to fight a war, and we admire that... But it also takes courage, a different subject , to achieve peace". Congratulations to Prime Minister Abiya Ahmedi Ali for showing a different kind of courage to bring peace to Ethiopia and its neighbours.