By Max Bearak
NAIROBI — In the year since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the country has become increasingly beset by political unrest, dampening some of the lofty hopes expressed by his supporters and the prize committee in Oslo.
Abiy was appointed to his position in 2018 and quickly set out a reform agenda that included increased civil liberties, the release of political prisoners, business deregulation and a pledge to hold Ethiopia’s first free, multiparty elections. He also forged a peace deal with neighboring Eritrea after decades of often bloody hostilities — the main basis for his Nobel.
A set of crises has instead ensued, slowing the pace of reform and underlining questions many asked last year as to whether Abiy’s award had been premature. Widespread ethnic and other political violence, the detention of opposition leaders and deepening polarization over the schedule of the promised elections — now delayed by the coronavirus pandemic — have created growing instability.
“The committee has increasingly given awards to processes like in Ethiopia, rather than past achievements. The expectation is of course that the award nudges the process along,” said Henrik Urdal, director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, which closely monitors the Nobel Peace Prize process. “I think the Abiy award was probably the riskiest of their process awards, though it would still be too early to call it a failure.”
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