How the Nobel Committee Backed an Autocrat Responsible for Genocide, Rape, and Man-made Starvation

If Adolf Hitler or the Nazi party had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a few days or even a year before the war broke out in 1939, no matter the magnitude of the war crimes or crimes against humanity, can we imagine what the Peace Prize would mean to the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee, which would not be in a position to revoke the Prize, and would not want to condemn the Holocaust or sympathise with the Jews of Europe?

What does “non-revocable prize” imply? Does it not imply that the committee is supposed to almost be a group of “infallible saints” and the winner is considered a “saint”?

What does “Regardless of facts, the status of the Norwegian Nobel committee does not allow it to revokea Peace Prize once awarded, and not a single Nobel Prize has ever been revoked or condemned” mean? Is peace a one-time piece of cake? Surely, this is against reality, and puts the Nobel Peace Prize institute outside the sphere of humanity and the dynamic nature of human beings.

Towards the end of 2019, the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee announced that the laureate for peace in 2019 would be Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister, former intelligence director, and lieutenant colonel in Ethiopia’s army. For some scholars and politicians more familiar with East African politics, the decision was unexpected, shocking, and premature. In addition, there was concern that the prize would legitimise the grave human rights violations of the brutal dictatorship of Afwerki’s regime in Eritrea. Scholars also expressed their view that the prize would authorise the coming war on ethnic Tigrayan people in Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) by the Nobel allies, as their agreement had turned out to be merely a political game.

The Afwerki regime and the TPLF, the leading party in Tigray, and formerly the dominant party in the ruling coalition in Ethiopia, have been old foes. Isaias Afwerki had spent the last two decades training, financing, and arming every capable Eritrean, and opposition groups inside and outside Ethiopia, cultivating relations with many key Amhara and Oromo elites, including Abiy Ahmed, who had long been waiting to take revenge on the TPLF and the people of Tigray.
Many scholars and geopolitical experts have raised concerns, and expressed their worries and disappointments with the committee’s decision through different means of communication, including mainstream media.

According to the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee, Abiy Ahmed was chosen for “his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea”. But, as had soon become all too obvious, the peace agreement was a political drama with only two actors: Abiy and Isaias, united by their common enemies: the Tigrayan people in Ethiopia and the TPLF – a deep animosity, which goes back at least to the Ethiopia-Eritrea war (1998 – 2000). The process had already lost momentum long before the Nobel Prize nomination; and was clearly not going to be institutionalised. It had not involved the Ethiopian parliament or people in both countries.

Even if the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee had hoped during the nomination process that “the peace agreement would help to bring about positive change for the populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea”, it would have been clear that sustainable peace demands a high level of trust from all stakeholders, including the primary war victims on the ground. The committee should have also evaluated the transparency of the process of the peace agreement, and, most importantly, the institutionalisation. But, none of these conditions were met.

It is noteworthy that, just after the first peace agreement was signed in Asmara, in July 2019, long before the peace prize, Isaias Afwerki was heard saying, “Game OVER”, referring to Woyane (or the TPLF), one of the four political parties that constituted the EPRDF. Abiy Ahmed had been a long-standing member of the EPRDF, and was its chairman during that time. This, if duly considered, was a sure sign that the agreement was a political game between Abiy and Isaias. Furthermore, Abiy did not even involve members of the party. He was all alone, misusing power.  War was slowly being prepared at that time, but the Nobel committee continued to mistake this for a peace – and even military- agreement: a grave mistake.

Yet, three years after the peace agreement between the two leaders, and two years after the Nobel peace award, none of the underlying issues of the Ethiopia-Eritrea war have been addressed: The boarders, opened for one-week of political drama, remain closed. The boarder between the two countries has not been demarcated. The exodus of Eritreans fleeing the brutal restrictions imposed by their government continues, according to Human Rights Watch. And, still, there is no peace on the ground. This implies that the only thing that unites the two Nobel allies is their commitment to “annihilate the people of Tigray for at least 100 years or so.”

The Nobel committee also based its decision on the contribution of Abiy for normalising diplomatic relations between Eritrea and Djibouti. However, according to the 2020 human rights watch report, “Tensions with Djibouti remain unresolved because Djibouti claims that Eritrea has not accounted for prisoners of war captured in a 2008 border dispute. In 2019, Djibouti requested binding international arbitration; the request remained pending at time of writing”, the report states.

Yet, within less than a year of Abiy and Isaias being painted as ‘peace-loving’ by the international community and the Nobel peace Prize committee, it appears that they are allies’ intent on maintaining a semblance of peace. Just as the strategic alliance of Hitler and Mussolini was forged to “annihilate the Jews as a people”, almost a century later, a similarly problematic alliance has as its aim to “annihilate Tigrayans”.

The European Union envoy, who had served for years in Ethiopia, has notably claimed that the country’s leaders were planning the “ethnic cleansing” of Tigrayans. The envoy added during a question-and-answer session with the EU parliament committee: “When I met the Ethiopian leaders in February, they really used this kind of language that they were going to ‘wipe out’ Tigrayans.”

Finally, on 4 November 2020 – just as Hitler had done in 1939 – Abiy initiated war under the pretext of defence. Just as Hitler had famously said in the German parliament on November 01, 1939, “Since 5:45, a.m., we have been returning the fire.”, claiming that Poland had attacked first, Abiy used an alleged attack on federal military bases by Tigrayan forces as a justification for ordering the military offensive on one of Ethiopia’s  autonomous regions, which violates the Constitution. Unsurprisingly, satellite images clearly show a heavy build-up of federal troops on the border between the regions Amhara and Tigray, days before the alleged attack – indicating that the war was pre-planned by Abiy and his accomplices in the federal government. Huge movements and deployment of troops was reported, days before the outbreak of war.

Nobel Peace Prize legitimacy and the rise of ‘African Hitler’

Within less than one year since the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony had been held, while world leaders were busy dealing with the horrific pandemic and the presidential election in the United States, nothing less than a genocide occurred in Tigray, manifested by the use of sexual violence and starvation as Weapons of War, the deliberate Destruction of Civilian Properties, Public Infrastructure, schools, industries, water supplies, food storages, electricity, telephone and internet services, and military facilities. Abuse of Human Rights of Women and Children and a communication blackout have been employed to force the people into submission – all of which are issues the Nobel peace institute has been fighting to end for more than a century. These all were witnessed in Ethiopia by the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, alongside Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki.

Adolf Hitler vs. Abiy Ahmed

Like Adolf Hitler, Abiy Ahmed’s narcissism is a prominent feature of the current divided Ethiopia, where millions have been displaced, starved, raped, and massacred in the streets by what remains of the military and by nationalist militia killing squads. For Abiy, his Prosperity Party is merely a means to attain absolute power and propagate hate speech by sustaining the intrinsic contradiction between leaders. His ultimate need is appreciation and acceptance as the “divinely sent saviour of Ethiopia”.

Like the Nazi party rallied many by propagating hatred of Jews, territorial expansion, and consolidation of a racially pure state, Abiy and his Prosperity Party rallied their followers with hatred of Tigrayans and the TPLF, territorial expansion up to the red-sea, and consolidation of a single identity and culture of the Ethiopian state. Both Hitler and Abiy are masters in coining genocidal terms. Since Abiy came to power in 2018, he has – with increasing frequency – coined several genocidal words of discrimination, including “daylight hyenas”, “junta”, “terrorists” and “cancer”.

Unacceptable level of lies by a Nobel laureate

During the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, Abiy promised to bring peace and reconciliation to his country and the region. But, in less than a year, he and his Nobel ally Isaias had finalised the architecture of “annihilating Tigrayans for at least 100 years”, and gone for implementation, under the pretext of a “law enforcement operation”.

The Nobel Laureate Abiy and his ally Isaias’ initial architecture of the war was to ’wipe out’ the people of Tigray by using all means necessary, including massacres of hundreds of civilians, systematised mass rape of girls and women, the burning of crops, blocking all humanitarian emergency, blocking bank services, giving fertile land of Tigray to Amhara region and Eritrea. To hide all the crimes against humanity in Tigray from the watchful eyes of the world, all means of communication, ground and air transport, electricity, telecommunication (internet, landline, mobile), movement of people to and from the region and boarder with Sudan, were totally blocked. 

Abiy, after denying reports of the presence and involvement of Eritrean and Somali troops in the war in Tigray since November 2020, and giving false testimony to the UN chief, Antonio Guterres told a reporter: “We have no proof of the presence of Eritrean troops inside Ethiopia. I confronted the [Ethiopian] prime minister with that question, and he guaranteed to me that they have not entered the Tigrayan territory, that the only area where they are is the area that corresponded to the disputed territory between the two countries that in the peace agreement was decided to be given back to Eritrea” in December 2020.

But, in March 2021, Abiy finally admitted the presence and involvement of Eritrean forces in perpetrating abuses against Tigrayans, and announced to the international community that “Eritrea had agreed to withdraw its troops from Tigray”. Ironically, however, in June 2021, Eritrea, responding to US calls for an immediate withdrawal of Eritrean troops, accused the Biden administration of “stoking further conflict and destabilisation.” Does that mean the two Nobel allies were lying to each other, or that their cooperation and trust were at an end? Or, as Isaias said in February during his interview with the state media: “We are contributing in accordance with our obligation.” – indicating that one side of the ‘peace agreement’ was “wiping out the people of Tigray in Ethiopia and the TPLF” by combining their military forces.

Since the beginning of the war in Tigray, Abiy has been lying to the international community by saying, “it’s a law enforcement operation aimed at defending the constitutional order”. However, this declaration of war against an autonomous regional state, just due to its ideological and political differences, was itself against the fundamentals of the Constitution. Unsurprisingly, the so-called “police operation” has involved air strikes, bombing of public infrastructure such as health facilities, schools, universities, power stations, water pipelines, and civilian properties, and ground offensives and artillery or smart missile strikes. Autonomous drones have been used, and there is overwhelming evidence of widespread atrocities, including mass killings of civilians, gang rape of tens of thousands, and arbitrary killings by Ethiopian forces, Eritrean troops, and Amhara regional forces.

It is important to make explicitly clear that the reason for Abiy’s war against Tigray  is simply that the region refused to bow to his hegemonic and centralised vision of a reinstated monarchy, in which he and his pseudo-philosophy rule supreme – which undermines the constitutional regional autonomy. He is continually lying, while looking for a scapegoat for the atrocities in Tigray. Who knows? – maybe the next political drama will be to point  fingers towards his Nobel ally Afwerki?

Over seven million Ethiopian citizens are now trapped in Tigray by the joint forces of the Nobel allies, Abiy and Isaias, while aid deliveries have stalled, the UN says. According to a report by UN aid Chief Mark Lowcock from June, there is “famine in Tigray”, as of that month. Over 353,000 people in Tigray were facing “Nobel-Laureate-made famine”, and a further 5.2 million (more than 92% of the population of Tigray), equivalent to the population of Norway, are in dire conditions (phase 3 and 4) and in extreme needs of humanitarian assistance. The report warns the international community that a huge number of deaths by starvation was looming. However, in an interview with the BBC, the Nobel Laureate Abiy denied there was famine in Tigray. He has blocked humanitarian aid, and suspended aid organisations from operating in the region. This, it seems, was part of the agreement between Abiy and Isaias: using starvation until submission as a weapon of war – a violation of the 2018 UN resolution 2417(2018).

The response of the Nobel Peace Prize committee

Even though many of the former Nobel laureates themselves, Amnesty International and other human rights groups, the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States, take a firm stance by condemning what is happening in Tigray through the actions of the 2019 Nobel allies, the Norwegian Nobel committee still prefers to hide itself behind the curtains, refusing to condemn the war crimes committed in Tigray, while still calling themselves “peace defender”. Ironically, a year ago the committee also released a press statement saying, “The committee stands firmly behind its decision of the last year to award the Nobel Peace Prize 2019 to His Excellency Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.” – indicating that helping to stop killing, raping, famine, or the displacement of more than 2.2 million civilians in Tigray, does not seem to concern the committee and the institute in the least. This implies that the Nobel Peace Prize committee is out of the sphere of humanity – despite its motto: “working for greatness of humankind.”

Why the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee has transformed the institute from peace defender to war crime supporter

Since 1901, Nobel Peace Prizes have been awarded, based on the will of Alfred Nobel, 101 times to individuals and organisations whose achievements conferred the greatest benefit to humankind. The first peace icon, Henry Dunant, the co-founder of the Red Cross, was awarded for his humanitarian efforts to help wounded soldiers and create international understanding. Later in the century, individuals like Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Shirin Ebadi, Malala Yousafzai, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leyman Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman, and many more were awarded for a lifetime of selfless work, undertaken in a struggle to overcome poverty and distress, for a peaceful termination of the Apartheid regime, for struggling against suppression, for human and democratic rights of women and children. And though many of the committee’s decisions have rightly been criticised or viewed as misguided by many, all these awards certainly reflect the main mission, vision, and values of the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 2018, the Nobel Peace Prize committee turned its attention to the efforts to fight the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict, by awarding   the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize to Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege for their effort to fight such war crimes. Furthermore, recipients include organisations such as the World Food Program (2020 – for acting as a driving force in the effort to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict), Amnesty International (1977 – for protecting human rights of prisoners of conscience), United Nations (2001 – for their work for a better organised and more peaceful world), Office of the united Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (1981 – for promoting the fundamental rights of refugees.

However, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize accident has completely destroyed the positive perception of the Nobel Peace Prize that has been built for more than a century, and causes many to ask: “Why is the committee becoming a war crime conferrer and defender?” All the pillars, on which the Nobel Peace Prize stands and has been fighting for more than a century, are destroyed by the 2019 Nobel allies. Genocide, manifested by the use of sexual violence and starvation as a weapon of war, abuse of human and democratic rights of civilians  – unspeakable atrocities committed by Abiy, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, have been reported by organisations like Amnesty International and others. 

As noted, there have been controversial Peace Prize nominees and recipients who have been guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. For instance, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini were nominated for the Peace Prize. Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar was awarded the Peace Prize in 1991, and her government was later accused of genocide and ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya Muslims.

Even though many governments and international institutes for human rights and peace, including Amnesty International, have condemned crimes of genocide, and revoked honorary Conscience Ambassadorships, honorary doctorates, and even citizenships, the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee chosen neither to condemn the crime of genocide nor revoke the Peace Prize.  

It is crystal clear that awarding the 2019 Peace Prize to ‘African Hitler Abiy Ahmed’ was a monumental mistake that the Norwegian Nobel committee must reconsider. The question is whether this mistake was an “Accidental oversight” or “wilful intention”?  This can only be answered once and for all by the committee and the Norwegian parliament by taking corrective measures for the mistake, standing with the victims of the war crimes, and distancing unequivocally from Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki.


There is growing international criticism of the Nobel Committee’s handling of Abiy Ahmed’s candidacy, the awarding of the Prize, and, not least, the Committee’s official “non-attitude” to the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated in Ethiopia today by the Peace Prize winner. The committee has kept silent and is hiding behind a century-old tradition of not publishing any information regarding the assessments made prior to the award, nor of commenting on later developments that may affect the justification for the award.

If the Prize is really a peace prize and, thus, awarding it to Abiy was a mistake, he should be asked to hand back the Prize, and held accountable for committing genocide. All members of the Nobel Peace Prize committee should immediately resign, and the institute should remove Abiy Ahmed Ali from the list of Nobel Laureates. The institute should modernise its dogmas to fit the 21st century and a process of learning and self-correcting.

The UN, EU, AU, G7 and the international community must renew their promise that nobody, Nobel Laureate or not, must be able to get away with crimes against humanity. Justice, in practice and action, is urgently required to save the people of Tigray from further annihilation.

Crucially, allowing Abiy to continue this autocracy sends a bad signal to the wider Horn of Africa region, where there is a history of authoritarian regimes who operate with impunity, committing mass killings, rape, famine, and displacing populations – all of which we have a collective interest to end.

At the very least, multi-national companies must stop any cooperation with the ‘African Hitler’ Abiy Ahmed. International journalists must continue to report on this humanitarian disaster.