Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has received the Nobel Peace Prize and hailed the role played by former foe Eritrea in resolving the long-running conflict between the two countries.
“I accept this award on behalf of Ethiopians and Eritreans, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of peace,” Abiy said on Tuesday after he received the prestigious award in a formal ceremony at Oslo’s City Hall.
“Likewise, I accept this award on behalf of my partner, and comrade-in-peace, President Isaias Afwerki, whose goodwill, trust and commitment were vital in ending the two-decade deadlock between our countries,” he added.
Abiy, 43, said his horrifying experiences as a young Ethiopian soldier informed his determination to seek the end of the conflict.
“Twenty years ago, I was a radio operator attached to an Ethiopian army unit in the border town of Badame,” he recalled.
“I briefly left the foxhole in the hopes of getting a good antenna reception … It only took but a few minutes. Yet upon my return I was horrified to discover that my entire unit had been wiped out in an artillery attack.”
Abiy won the prize, in part, for making peace with Eritrea after one of Africa’s longest-running conflicts.
Just two months after becoming prime minister he announced that Ethiopia would fully accept the terms of a peace agreement with longtime foe Eritrea.
More than 80,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands were forced from their homes during a two-year war that broke out between the neighbours in 1998.
A United Nations-backed peace deal in 2000 awarded the disputed border territories to Eritrea, but the agreement was never implemented and skirmishes continued.
Following the rapprochement, Abiy visited Asmara becoming the first Ethiopian leader to visit Eritrea in two decades.
The two countries soon resumed flights and re-established phone lines. But the land border between the two East African countries still remains closed.