The committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize on Thursday appealed to Ethiopian Prime Minister to halt the ongoing conflict in Tigray.
In a rare critique of Abiy Ahmed Ali, who won the peace prize in 2019, the Norwegian Nobel committee said he bears a “special responsibility” to end the ongoing bloodshed in the Ethiopian northern region that broke out in November 2020 and contribute to peace.
The committee generally refrains from commenting the actions of Nobel Prize winners after they have won the award. An exception has been Abiy, with the committee having previously expressed its “deep concern” about the conflict.
Northern Ethiopia has been beset by conflict since November 2020 when Abiy sent troops into Tigray after accusing the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), of attacks on federal army camps.
The fighting between forces loyal to Abiy and the TPLF and their allies displaced in Africa’s second most populous nation has killed thousands of people and forced several million from their homes.
In the past week, at least 73 civilians have been killed by air strikes in Tigray, aid workers said.
The U.N. has accused the government of operating a de facto blockade of humanitarian aid to the region – an accusation the government denies.
“The humanitarian situation is dire and it’s unacceptable that humanitarian aid is not getting through in a sufficient manner,” Nobel committee Chair Berit Reiss-Andersen said in a statement. “As prime minister and peace prize laureate Abiy Ahmed has a special responsibility to end the conflict and contribute to making peace.”
The Norwegian committee said it could not comment on what factors were emphasised when the prize was awarded to Abiy beyond “the reasons given in connection with the award”, as the panel’s discussions are confidential.
Abiy’s prize “was awarded on the basis of his efforts and the legitimate 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.
Both sides blame each other for the current conflict. The TPLF accuses Abiy of centralising power at the expense of the regions, which he denies, while Abiy accuses the TPLF of seeking to return to power at the national level, which it rejects.