Statement from Olav Njølstad on behalf of the Norwegian Nobel Committee:
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee follows the developments in Ethiopia closely, and is deeply concerned. It repeats today what it has stated before, namely that it is the responsibility of all the involved parties to end the escalating violence and to solve disagreements and conflicts by peaceful means.”
From the Times
The Nobel peace prize committee has made a rare interjection in Ethiopia’s bloody slide into civil war amid criticism that it was too hasty to honour the country’s prime minister.
Hundreds have died in a military offensive and atrocities since Abiy Ahmed, 44, declared war on the rulers of the dissident Tigray region two weeks ago for defying his authority.
Mr Abiy, last year’s Nobel peace prizewinner, has spurned international pleas for dialogue and de-escalation in the conflict, which threatens the stability of the fragile Horn of Africa and, some fear, ethnic cleansing.
Africa’s youngest leader told the UN and other partners that he would not sit down with rebellious leaders from Tigray until it had restored the rule of law. Regional analysts have said that Mr Abiy’s ambitions to crush dissent in the ancient kingdom are unrealistic.
A deadline for regional rulers to surrender has now expired, setting the scene for fierce fighting as the government troops push on Mekelle, Tigray’s hilly capital, which is heavily defended by regional forces and loyal militia groups.
More than 27,000 refugees, most of them children, have spilt across Tigray’s border into Sudan, which is struggling to maintain its own shaky peace following last year’s historic revolution. An unwieldy regional conflict now looks unavoidable after Tigrayan forces launched rocket strikes on sites in neighbouring Eritrea.
Today the UN refugee agence warned of a “full-scale humanitarian crisis” unfolding in Ethiopia, with 4,000 people a day, mostly children, fleeing the fighting in Tigray.
The Nobel committee credited Mr Abiy for ending Ethiopia’s protracted border war with Eritrea, a closed military state.
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee follows the developments in Ethiopia closely, and is deeply concerned,” read a statement from the five-member committee, which rarely expresses views about the actions of past Nobel laureates. It called on all parties “to end the escalating violence and to solve disagreements and conflicts by peaceful means.”
Both sides in the conflict have been accused of war crimes, including a massacre reported by Amnesty International in which scores of civilians were said to have been hacked to death, possibly by pro-Tigray militia groups.
The bad blood between Mr Abiy and the restive Tigrayans dates back to his rise to power in 2018 when he ushered in a blizzard of reforms resulting in the region’s rulers being sidelined. Matters came to a head after the region pressed ahead with its own elections, in defiance of a delay ordered by the federal government, and said it no longer recognised Mr Abiy as a legitimate leader.The prime minister’s resort to war has helped to unleash longstanding tensions in Ethiopia, which has more than 80 ethnolinguistic groups, and prompted warnings of potential ethnic cleansing and even genocide.
The Nobel peace committee has been criticised for rushing its honours in the past, including to the former American president Barack Obama, who was given the honour nine months after taking office in 2009.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese leader, won it in 1991 when she was under house arrest. She was later criticised for failing to stop the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority. Mr Abiy had been prime minister for 18 months when he was honoured for his peace-making skills.