The prize honors Abiy Ahmed Ali's outstanding achievement for a historic peace declaration with the arch-enemy Eritrea. A 20-year conflict that has cost the lives of more than 100,000 people and has flared up again and again in recent years seems to be coming to a peaceful end. A process of reconciliation between the two states offers opportunities for the societies of both states and the East African region. These important developments and the resulting opportunities for a peaceful future are worthy of recognition. "Abiy Ahmed Ali is one of the great hopes on the African continent. We want to honor his commitment to peace with the Hessian Peace Prize and at the same time continue to promote it," said Nicole Deitelhoff, Head of PRIF and member of the Board of Trustees.
The peace agreement and the reconciliation of the two neighbouring states based on it raise hopes for the stabilization of the entire region. The changes introduced by Abiy Ahmed Ali are also noteworthy domestically: since Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown in 1974, there has been no change of government in the country without bloodshed. The single party "Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian Peoples" (EPRDF), which has been in power since 1991, is closely interwoven with the Ethiopian state, controls all levels of the federal system and has repeatedly, relied on repression. Abiy's government is also supported by this coalition, but in the last year and a half it has made significant progress in political and economic liberalization. The increased public attention that followed the award of the Hessian Peace Prize could serve as a reminder not to stop now but to press ahead with these domestic reforms peacefully and integratively.
Abiy Ahmed Ali, born 1976 in Beshasha, Ethiopia, appointed Prime Minister of Ethiopia in April 2018. He belongs to the ethnic group of Oromo, who have long perceived themselves as marginalized in Ethiopia's political system. He is the first Oromo to become Prime Minister.
A former soldier in the Ethiopian army, he studied computer and communications technology, cryptography, transformational leadership and business administration and received a doctorate in management and leadership from the University of Addis Ababa in 2017. He served in the Eritrean-Ethiopian border war from 1998 to 2000 and was Deputy Director of the Information Network Security Agency (INSA), a secret service agency that monitors telecommunications and the Internet in Ethiopia, from 2007 to 2010.
He has been a member of the Ethiopian Parliament since 2010 and was Minister of Science from 2015 to 2016. He is a member of the political group of the Democratic Organization of the People of Oromo (OPDO), which is part of the single ruling party EPRDF. Since March 2018 he has been Chairman of the EPRDF. At 42, he is the youngest head of government in Africa.
The award ceremony took place on September 23rd, 2019. On behalf of Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia's minister of peace, Muferihat Kamil, accepted the award. Hessian Prime Minister Volker Bouffier delivered the laudatory speech.