Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed received his Nobel Peace Prize this week in Norway in a celebration tinged with concern over his country’s future stability.
Abiy was honoured by the Nobel Prize committee for "his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea”.
Coming to power in 2018, the 43-year-old leader moved quickly to end a two-decade old conflict with Eritrea and instituted sweeping political liberalisation measures ahead of multiparty elections in 2020.
But, despite his international acclaim, Abiy’s domestic successes have been mixed. His reformist agenda has led to an escalation in ethnic violence following the easing of authoritarian controls, which has displaced around three million people.
Many of Ethiopia’s 80 ethnic groups are now demanding greater autonomy, straining its federal system. Some ethno-nationalists with openly bigoted messages are even agitating for outright secession – threatening the unity of one of Africa’s most populous countries.
Abiy’s brash style has led to accusations that he is developing a personality cult. But despite his energy, his administration has struggled to address the recurring ethnic conflict, which is also damaging Ethiopia’s fragile economy.
Abiy has created a pan-Ethiopian Prosperity Party to fight the 2020 election, but will have to compete with a multiplicity of long-suppressed regional parties unleashed by his reforms.
Finally, Abiy’s signature peace deal with Ethiopia – two decades after a war that killed 100,000 people – has failed to usher in the promised trade and development initiatives. As reconciliation stalled, all the border crossings that were thrown open last year have since closed, and a steady stream of Eritrean refugees is fleeing the repressive country.
Take a look at TNH’s reporting on Ethiopia and the challenges it has faced in the first 18 months of Abiy’s presidency.
More than a million people were uprooted by ethnic violence last year in southern Ethiopia. The government is telling people to go home, but reconciliation is proving a far more difficult journey.
As Sidama looks to become Ethiopia’s newest region, some fear a broader push for ethnic recognition could lead to the break-up of the country.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has won the Nobel Peace Prize, but his 18 months in power have been difficult, and dangers lie ahead.
The peace deal with Ethiopia hasn’t stopped the flow of refugees, many of whom choose to head on to Europe or the Americas, if they can afford it.
A merry-go-round of evictions and government-pressured returns has left tens of thousands without adequate access to humanitarian aid.
Due to their perceived affiliation with the old autocratic regime, people in the Tigray region are afraid of being targeted by association.
An influx of Eritreans is placing new strain on a country that already has almost four million refugees and displaced people to contend with.
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