“Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will not be interviewed when he comes to Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize next week.
The traditional press conference with the Nobel Prize winner has been removed from the program this year. With few exceptions, this has not happened since the early 1990s, when press conferences became a permanent entry on the Nobel program, says Nobel Director Olav Njåstad to NTB.
According to Njåstad, the press conference is closed because Ahmed arrives late on the afternoon of December 9, the day before the Nobel ceremony itself. But the Peace Prize winner has also said no to TV interviews with NRK, the BBC and Al Jazeera.
– What kind of assessments are behind, you must ask his press spokesperson, says the Nobel director.
A large international press auction is usually present at the awards ceremony. This year, two journalists from Ethiopia are currently accredited. In addition, Ethiopians in exile may have applied for accreditation from news media in other countries, according to Njåstad.
– Avoid difficult questions
Abiy Ahmed received the Peace Prize because in his first half as prime minister he managed to make peace with neighboring Eritrea after decades of conflict and accelerated democratization in Ethiopia.
But since then, nothing has happened, according to professor and Ethiopia expert Kjetil Tronvoll.
– He doesn’t have much to brag about after his first six months, he says.
During the past six months, the Eritrea process has stalled, while unrest in Ethiopia has risen to new heights.
– There are great tensions in Ethiopia, as great as it has hardly ever been, says Tronvoll.
By not meeting the press, Ahmed avoids having to answer difficult questions about the peace process, about the unrest in Ethiopia and what the growing fragmentation in Ahmed’s own party could entail, he points out.
“The most important thing is that ordinary Ethiopians now feel an increasing degree of insecurity and uncertainty. They do not trust that the state is strong enough to secure them, says Tronvoll.
Want to lift ethnic differences
In late October, just weeks after the Abiy Ahmed Peace Prize was announced, about 70 people were killed in turmoil in the capital, Addis Ababa and the Oromia region. Ahmed himself is from the Oromo people group, Ethiopia’s largest, and it was these who brought him to power in 2018.
But now well-known Oromo activists have turned to Ahmed, who will resolve the tensions in the country by lifting ethnic divides and establishing a new national identity.
It has not fallen into good soil.
– Ethiopia is deeply divided between those who want unity and those who want ethnic autonomy. Many people believe that Abiy now cuts off the branch he is sitting on. His power base is weathering every day, Tronvoll says.
Track selection loss
In November, however, the prime minister managed to unite three of four ethnic-based parties in Ethiopia’s ruling coalition EPRDF into a new party with the belligerent name Prosperity Party.
But so far the tigray party TPLF, which ruled Ethiopia for 27 years, has turned its thumb.
In May next year, elections will be held in Ethiopia.
– If the election is carried out and there is a big if, and if it becomes a fair election, an even bigger if, then Abiy will lose, predicts Tronvoll.”