Nobel Peace

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appears at the European Council headquarters in Brussels on Jan. 24. The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize was given to Abiy on Friday. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, file)

Congratulations to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

The annual award honors those who have distinguished themselves in pursuing of the most important goal of any world leader — peace. Its history and prestige make it a paramount honor that can recognize those whose work has changed the course of the world or give critical momentum to the most promising incipient movements.

Abiy, 43, falls in that second class. He rose to power only a year ago, but has amassed an impressive record, moving quickly to end his country’s two-decade border conflict with Eritrea, working to reconcile other conflicts in the region and reforming his nation’s government and society.

A former soldier, Abiy accepted terms to end his nation’s 20-year Eritrean conflict, which had killed tens of thousands of people and left families separated for a generation.

At home, he began an era of reform, releasing thousands of prisoners, welcoming home once-banned opposition groups, establishing a diverse leadership team and acknowledging past abuses. For the first time, Ethiopia had no journalists in prison. In a region where democracy is often only an aspiration, he has promised a free, fair election in 2020.

What did it take to end what had seemed an endless, bloody fight and do all those other things? A leader with a moral compass and the charisma to force positive change. Blessed are the peacemakers.

The final word will not be written on Abiy for years, and the progress of his efforts faces challenges. He has survived an assassination attempt and his efforts at an open society have released sometimes-violent ethnic tensions, which could grow ahead of next year’s election.

The Nobel honor rightly puts Abiy in a pantheon of great world leaders from the past, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, George C. Marshall and Nelson Mandela. Only time will tell if the promise of his early accomplishments will eventually flower into the world-changing achievements produced by that group, but we join the Nobel committee in recognizing the great promise of Abiy’s vision for a prosperous, peaceful Ethiopia, surrounded by nonbelligerent neighbors and dedicated to the good of its citizens.

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