OSLO – The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the Nobel Peace Prize, said Thursday that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who received the honor in 2019, bears special responsibility for ending the bloodshed in Tigray.
“As Prime Minister and Peace Prize laureate, Abiy Ahmed has a special responsibility to end conflict and contribute to peace,” Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the committee, said in a statement.
Northern Ethiopia has been embroiled in conflict since November 2020, when Ahmed deployed troops to Tigray after accusing the region’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) party of targeting attacks on federal army camps.
Fighting between forces loyal to Abiy and the TPLF and its allies has killed thousands and displaced many millions from their homes.
Tigray is under what the United Nations calls a de facto lockdown preventing millions of people from receiving life-saving medicine and food, including hundreds of thousands in near-starvation conditions.
“The humanitarian situation is very serious and it is unacceptable that humanitarian aid is not being received adequately,” Reiss-Andersen said.
At a press conference, Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth called on countries to pressure Abiy to push through aid.
“The main threat is the blocking of humanitarian aid by the Ethiopian government, which millions of people in the region badly need,” Roth told reporters.
“It’s a classic case of collective punishment. This does not punish the Tigray forces. It’s punishing people… in Tigray,” he added.
The conflict in Tigray has prompted calls to strip Abiy of the Nobel Prize, but this is not possible under the prize’s statutes.
The Norwegian panel said it could not comment on the factors put forward when awarding the prize to Abiy beyond “reasons given in relation to the prize” because panel discussions are confidential.
Abiy’s award “was given based on his efforts and the reasonable expectations that existed in 2019,” Reiss-Andersen said.
“The peace initiatives that Abiy Ahmed launched and for which he received the Nobel Prize were based on his contribution to the peace agreement with Eritrea and his comprehensive political initiative for democracy and the development of civil rights”, she added.