Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize

Abiy Ahmed.
Abiy Ahmed. Photo credit: Getty

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been announced as the winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize during the official ceremony at The Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway.

Abiy, who was one of the favourites to win the prize, won the award for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation.

One of Abiy's biggest victories was the peace deal, signed in July last year, which ended a nearly 20-year military stalemate with Eritrea following their 1998-2000 border war.

Asle Sveen, a historian who has written several books about the Nobel Peace Prize, told Reuters the deal made Abiy exactly the kind of candidate Alfred Nobel had envisaged for the prize.

"The peace deal has ended a long conflict with Eritrea, and he is very popular for having done this, and he is doing democratic reforms internally," Sveen said.

But some benefits of the peace were short-lived. Land borders opened in July but closed in December with no official explanation.

"Last year's rapprochement appears to have been partly due to the Eritrean president's belief that Abiy's rise marked the eclipse of Tigray's ruling party, which had been his prime antagonist for more than two decades," said Will Davison, an Ethiopia analyst at Crisis Group.

"But although it has lost power at the federal level, Tigray's ruling party remains firmly in control of its own region, which includes a long border with Eritrea, partially explaining why relations between the two nations haven't warmed further."

Nebiat, the foreign ministry spokesman, said Eritrea and Ethiopia had restored diplomatic relations, air links and phone connections. "Other engagements are well underway to further institutionalize relations," he said.

Abiy has pushed through reforms at home and abroad. His public renunciation of past abuses drew a line between his administration and that of his predecessor.

He appointed former dissidents to senior roles. Daniel Bekele, a former political prisoner and Africa director at New York-based Human Rights Watch, now heads the government's human rights commission. Birtukan Mideksa, who founded an opposition party and was jailed after a disputed 2005 election, now heads the electoral commission.

But ethnically tinged violence flares frequently, and systemic attempts to address past injustices have been slow. A reconciliation commission set up in December has an unclear mandate, lacks expertise and has only met twice, said Laetitia Bader, an Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

"The jury is still out on whether the move will be more than mere window dressing," Bader said.