Mr Abiy made a peace deal with Eritrea immediately after becoming Prime Minister of Ethiopia that helped to end a 20-year military conflict that followed the 1998-2000 border war.
He became the winner of the 100th Noble Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway where it will be handed over to him in December. The Prize is worth some nine million Swedish crowns, equivalent to about 730,000 pounds ($900,000).
Mr Abiy said he was “humbled and thrilled”, following his announcement as the winner.
“Thank you very much. It is a prize given to Africa, given to Ethiopia and I can imagine how the rest of Africa’s leaders will take it positively to work the peace-building process on our continent,” he added in a phone call with the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
Mr Abiy beat a total of 301 candidates that had been nominated to the prestigious prize who included 223 individuals and 78 organizations.
Among the key nominees beaten by Mr Abiy include climate activist and teenager Greta Thurnberg who was widely tipped as the favorite before the final announcement on Friday.
The Nobel Foundation’s rules prohibit publication of nomination shortlists for 50 years, rendering speculations of possible winners ahead of the announcement as mere guesswork.
Why was Abiy Ahmed nominated?
Shortly after becoming Prime Minister in April 2018, Mr Abiy embarked on rigorous liberalizing reforms almost in all sectors of Ethiopia trying to free up a tightly controlled nation.
Among his noticeable reforms include freeing thousands of opposition activists from jail and making way for exiled dissidents to return home while his government has promoted several women to prominent positions.
However, his nomination was hugely boosted by the peace deal he signed with Eritrea that brought an end to a 20-year military stalemate.
Why he won
The Norwegian Noble Committee said that Mr Abiy, 43, was honored for his “decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea”.
“The prize is also meant to recognize all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast Africa regions,” added the Committee who also acknowledged other stakeholders in bringing back peace in the region.
“Peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone. When Prime Minister Abiy reached out his hand, President Afwerki grasped it, and helped to formalize the peace process between the two countries. The Norwegian Noble Committee hopes the peace agreement will help to bring about positive change for the entire populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea.”
In addition to the Eritrea deal, Mr Abiy, Africa’s youngest head of government has gone on to be involved in several other peace processes in other countries on the continent. These include brokering an agreement between military leaders of civilians following months of protests.
Mr Abiy’s office back in Ethiopia received the prize warmly saying that it is a testimony “to the ideals of unity, cooperation and mutual coexistence that the prime minister has been consistently championing”.
A face of peace in the region!
In addition to his significant domestic achievements in just over a year since coming into office, where few had given him chance of attaining, Mr, Abiy has gone to become such a prominent peace figure in the Horn of Africa at large.
After easing the tension between his country and Eritrea, Mr Abiy has overseen restoration of peace in Sudan Somalia and Djibouti all which were entangled in border disputes. While on his visits to these regional states, he has consistently preached the message of Medemer (togetherness or inclusiveness).