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Nobel committee criticizes laureate Abiy Ahmed

January 13, 2022

The Norwegian Nobel committee won't strip the Ethiopian prime minister of his Nobel Peace Prize, but it did say he bears a "special responsibility" to end the war and humanitarian crisis in his country's Tigray region.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks with soldiers during a frontline visit
Abiy has directed the war effort against forces from Tigray on the front linesImage: Ethiopian Prime Minister's Office/AA/picture alliance

In a rare public rebuke, the Norwegian Nobel committee urged Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, to end the fighting in his country's Tigray region.

"As prime minister and peace prize laureate, Abiy Ahmed has a special responsibility to end the conflict and contribute to making peace," the Nobel committee chairperson, Berit Reiss-Andersen, said on Thursday.

The committee generally refrains from commenting on the actions of laureates, but it has now twice urged Abiye to act. It previously expressed its "deep concern" over the situation in Tigray.

"The humanitarian situation is dire and it's unacceptable that humanitarian aid is not getting through in a sufficient manner," Reiss-Andersen said.

Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize after making peace with neighboring Eritrea and introducing political reforms in Ethiopia.

Abiy poses for the media after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019
Abiy won the Nobel Prize a year after taking office for resolving two decades of hostility with neighboring EritreaImage: Håkon Mosvold Larsen/AP Photo/picture alliance

Fighting continues in the Tigray region

In the past week alone, airstrikes killed at least 73 civilians in Tigray, aid workers said.

More than 2 million people have been displaced, and, with aid to the region blocked, hundreds of thousands live in famine-like conditions.

Aid organizations were struggling to reach those in need, Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth said.

 "The big threat there is the Ethiopian government's blockade of humanitarian assistance that is desperately needed by millions of people in the region," Roth said.

"This is a classic case of collective punishment. This is not punishing Tigrayan military forces. It is punishing the people... in Tigray," he added.

Ahmed personally conducted war operations

Northern Ethiopia has been beset by conflict since November 2020, when Abiy ordered a military offensive against regional forces in Tigray.

Fighting between government forces and the fighters from the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) has left thousands dead and displaced millions.

In November, Abiy directed the fighting from the frontlines; a month later, the TPLF retreated into their region. Ethiopian forces said they would not advance further.

There have been calls for the committee to strip Abiy of the Nobel, but this is not possible under the award's regulations.

"It is not our role to provide continuing commentary on Ethiopian developments or to assess the position of a Peace Prize laureate after the prize has been received,'' the committee said.

lo/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)