By Charles Onunaiju
“Peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone. When Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reached out his hand, President Afwerki (Eritrea) grasped it and helped to formalise the peace process between the two countries. The Norwegian Nobel committee hopes the peace agreement will help bring about positive change for the entire populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea” – Norwegian Nobel Committee
AFTER observing correctly that “peace does not arise from the action of one party alone”, the Norwegian Nobel committee went ahead to award the 2019 Nobel peace prize to a certainly deserving Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Mr. Abiy Ahmed and leaving aside, his equally co-deserving peace maker, Afwerki of Eritrea for no explicable reasons except for obviously political reason. Prime Minister Abiy certainly fired the first shot of peace initiative that tore through the thick ice of the bitterly-frozen conflict that has shut out the two neigbours from engaging in fruitful cooperation for many decades but his peace offensive would have hit the rocks, had President Afwerki not held an open arm.
But unlike other bitter enemies who tore through the lines of hate and acrimony to embrace each other and urged their respective peoples to do the same, were jointly recognised and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, how could the Norwegian Nobel Committee rationalise the exclusion of President Afwerki? Except that the Eritrean leader routinely demonised in the West for allegedly running the so-called Stalinist outpost in the horn of Africa, do not conform to Western political correctness of political and economic reforms.
In 1993, the Nobel peace prize was jointly awarded to the South Africa anti-apartheid iconic figure, former President Nelson Mandela and the last leader of the racist minority regime, former President F.W de-Klerk and they were both cited by the Nobel committee as having made joint efforts to bring about the end of apartheid and open the way for peace and reconciliation in South Africa.
And in the following year, in 1994, the Nobel Committee found the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, PLO, Yasser Arafat; former Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzak Rabin and another Israeli veteran politician, Mr. Shimon Peres, worthy to be jointly awarded the Nobel peace prize for their efforts in opening a peace process for the two peoples-Arab Palestine and Jewish Israelis to engage in negotiations for eventual settlement of their long-running conflicts, which up to this day, is still a work in progress.
The question to be asked: how would the Norwegian Nobel Committee which has a solid pedigree to lean on, award the 2019 Nobel peace prize jointly to messers Abiy Ahmed and Isaias?
Afwerki lost its focus and narrowly limited itself. Is the Nobel Prize for peace and other categories, including literature, now tainted with political bias and even a mere political carrot to be dangled to those who exclusively toe the politically correct line? Why did the “Norwegian Nobel Committee believe that the Nobel Peace prize will strengthen Prime minister Abiy in his important work for peace and reconciliation” and Mr. Afwerki, his peace partner and President of Eritrea, does not have to be “strengthened”. How impartial are the Norwegian Nobel Committee in executing the will of Mr. Alfred Nobel who instituted the prizes and wrote in his will that his entire remaining estate should be used to endow “prizes to those who, during the preceding year, have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind”. And in particular to peace category, Mr. Alfred Nobel wrote that the prize should “go to the person who has done the most or best to advance fellowship among nations, and the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the establishment and promotion of peace congresses.”
The Nobel committee in its wisdom, having recognized that “peace do not arise from the actions of one party alone”, has since jointly awarded the prize to peace partners who jointly promoted and facilitated reconciliation, which is the foremost peace dividend.
Outstandingly, the first Nobel peace prize was awarded jointly to a Swiss man, Henry Dunant and a French man, Frederic Passy in 1901 for recognition in their respective work for peace.
If Mr. Alfred Nobel entertained any political considerations for the award of his prizes in the various categories he outlined, it was certainly muted.There is nothing clearly discernible in the will of Mr. Alfred Nobel to prevent Mr. Afwerki from sharing in the peace prize of his peace partner. Mr. Abiy, while he certainly deserves the prize, should have made it clear that the honour of his peacemaking with Eritrea would be grossly deficient, if his peace partner did not share in the limelight.
Mr. Isaias Afwerki, President of his country since after the Eritrean war of Independence in 1993, after he led the Eritrean people’s liberation front to victory in may 1991, is largely considered by the West a dinosaur, from Africa’s single-party rule.
President Afwerki has largely spunned the wind of multi-party liberal democracy that swept the continent since the 1990s. He has also shunned the neo-liberal economic reforms, taking his people in the political and economic direction that the party considered more appropriate in the context of their specific national condition. The West considers his regime repressive and an economic disaster. But Eritrea is one of the most stable countries in Africa. Eritrea is no political paragon, not to talk of economic Eldorado, but the country has largely staved off the chaos of multi-party contestations that fuels ethnic and religious irredentism in Africa and consequently plunged many countries into intercine conflicts and wars. For an economy, which is still struggling to break even, like most of its other African counterparts, Mr. Afwerki seemed to suggest like the France 5th Republic founder, Charles De Guelle, that the GDP growth is not as important as the honour and prestige of the national flag.
President Aferki does not definitely fit into the West’s political correctness of liberal economic and political reform but his role in the peace-making of his country and its giant neighbour, Ethiopia, is unassailable. Should, therefore, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wish to retain the enduring credibility of the Nobel Peace Prize, it must take urgent step to announce Mr. Isaias Afwerki as a co and joint winner of the 2019 prize.
*Charles Onunaiju, is director, Centre for China Studies, Utako Abuja.