Who is Behind Dr. Abiy’s First Nobel Peace Prize Nomination?

“The views represented in this opinion piece do not necessarily represent those of the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy.”


The Nobel Peace Prizes were established by the Swedish inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel. When he died in 1895, he left behind a will instructing in which fields the prizes should be awarded. Accordingly, the Nobel Peace Prize was to be awarded “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses” (The Norwegian Nobel Institute, 2019). He instructed for the prize to be awarded by a committee of five persons selected by the Norwegian parliament. Since 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 100 times, to 90 men, 17 women, and 24 organizations (Ibid).

On October 11, 2019, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali, received the 100th Nobel Peace Prize. He was recognized “for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea. The prize is also meant to recognise all the stakeholders working for “peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions” (Ibid). He will receive the Nobel medal and diploma, today, December 10, 2019, in Oslo City Hall, Norway. He is expected to deliver a Nobel lecture on this day.

Around the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, there was a petition going on Facebook, particularly within the Ethiopian community, asking people to sign a petition form to nominate Dr. Abiy for the Nobel Peace Prize. But by now most people have discovered that only a few people are eligible to submit a nomination for the Nobel Prize. According to the Nobel Peace Prize Organization, only the following members can submit the application.

  • Members of national assemblies and national governments (cabinet members/ministers) of sovereign states as well as current heads of state;
  • Members of The International Court of Justice in The Hague and The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague;
  • Members of l’Institut de Droit International;
  • Members of the Executive Committee of the international board of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom;
  • University professors, professors emeriti and associate professors of history, social sciences, law, philosophy, theology, and religion; university rectors and university directors (or their equivalents); directors of peace research institutes and foreign policy institutes;
  • the Nobel Peace Prize winners, Members of the main board of directors or its equivalent of organizations that have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize;
  • Current and former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee; and
  • Former advisers to the Norwegian Nobel Committee (The Norwegian Nobel Institute, 2019).

A nomination will be invalid if it is submitted by a person or institution that is not qualified. The submission is done via email. After an eligible individual fills out the request form, the Institute will send an instruction on how to submit the nomination. “After all the qualified nominations have been discussed, a short-list of the most interesting and worthy candidates is created. The candidates on the short-list are then subject to assessments and examinations are done by the Nobel Committee’s permanent advisers, together with other Norwegian or international experts” (Ibid). In most cases a final decision is made through consensus. For the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, there were 301 candidates out of which 223 are individuals and 78 are organizations. Nominations must be submitted before January 31st.

Even though the Norwegian Nobel Institute will not release the names of nominators or nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize until the beginning of the year, marking the 50th anniversary of the awarding of a prize, this article aims to document the nomination process submitted by a committee based in Stockholm, Sweden. Please note that it is possible that more than one person/institution might have nominated Dr. Abiy for the Peace Prize.

The Conceptualizing Period

When Prime Minister Dr. Abiy visited Asmara, Eritrea for the first time since the war in July 2018, Mr. Abebe Hailu and Dr. Kifele Jote discussed on the phone how this could be an act which could lead to the nomination of Dr. Abiy for the Nobel Peace Prize. Then Mr. Abebe, who is also a member of the Social Democrat Party of Sweden, contacted his colleague MP Mr. Anders Österberg to ask him if it would be possible to nominate Dr. Abiy for the Nobel Peace Prize. With an affirmative response, he joined the two men to follow up on the nomination process. MP Mr. Österberg has been involved and working with the Ethiopian community in Stockholm for a few years. Mr. Österberg said “I wanted to participate because the deeds during 2018 were historical and we want to push the reforms in the right direction. “With the Nobel Prize, all eyes will be on Ethiopia. It will encourage to continue the democratic track” (Österberg, 2019). On July 9, 2018, Mr. Abebe and MP Mr. Österberg posted on their social media about the decision to nominate Dr. Abiy for the Nobel Peace Prize. This post was shared by 1500 users on Facebook.

Together with Mr. Endale Wakjira, a fellow Ethiopian, they decided to establish a committee that consists of Ethiopians who have different backgrounds and experiences. Mr. Endale and Mr. Abebe stated, “we tried to include everyone who was willing to join irrespective of their political opinion” (Hailu, 2019; Wakjira, 2019). The following 14 people became a member of the nomination committee: Dr. Abdullahi Abdo, Mr. Abebe Hailu, Commissioner Abere Adamu, Mr. Ahmed Ali, MP Anders Österberg, Mrs. Eleni Yohanes Makula, Mr. Endale Wakjira, Mrs. Entisar Mubark, Ms. Emebet Fantahun, Prof. Girma Gebresenbet, Ms. Kemer Jemal, Dr. Kifle Jote, Dr. Techane Gari Bosona, Ms. Tezita Abraham

The Nomination Process

Their first meeting took place in July 2019 in MP Mr. Österberg’s office. During this time all members were assigned to gather facts on the activities of Dr. Abiy which could be valuable for the nomination process, a process that took two and a half months and resulted in a 100-page long document. Prof. Girma led the charge in selecting major events from the 100-page document, prioritizing activities from which Dr. Abiy could be identified as a contributor to establishing and strengthening peace, both in the Horn of Africa and Ethiopia. The resulting 20-page document was then used to fill out the Nobel Peace Prize application form. Finally, on December 2, 2018, MP Mr. Österberg, who is eligible to submit Nobel Peace Prize nominee, submitted the nomination.

Source: MP Mr. Österberg, 2019

Picture 1. E-mail Confirmation of the Submission by the Norwegian Nobel Institute

MP Mr. Österberg submitted a five-page document that consisted of two parts. The first part introduced Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali and the second part listed why he is eligible for the Nobel Peace Prize (Österberg, 2019). His contributions to peacebuilding at the international and regional levels includes the peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea, his mediation role between Eritrea and Djibouti, and mediation between the South Sudan conflicting parties. At the national level his actions to release political prisoners, settle internal differences among religious groups, invitations of exiled politicians and Dr. Abiy’s appointment of 50% women in his cabinet were highlighted

The Collective Act to Achieve a Common Objective

The Committee’s activity did not end there. They laid down a strategy to identify and contact qualified nominators to nominate Dr. Abiy for the Nobel Peace Prize. If required, they also agreed to share the twenty-page document to potential nominators. Mr. Abebe stated that “according to the information I have, not only Ethiopians but also non-Ethiopian submitted the nomination. I personally know that a Persian professor also submitted the nomination. We encouraged others to submit the nomination via social media as well” (Hailu, 2019).


Hailu, A. (2019, October 17). (J. G. Birru, Interviewer)

Österberg, A. (2019, October 20). (J. G. Birru, Interviewer)

The Norwegian Nobel Institute. (2019). Retrieved from The Nobel Peace Prize: https://www.nobelpeaceprize.org

Wakjira, E. (2019, October 12). (J. G. Birru, Interviewer)

Follow Jalale Getachew Birru:

Jalale Getachew Birru is a doctoral candidate at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy, University of Erfurt, Germany. She holds a Master of Public Policy (M.P.P) from Willy Brandt School of Public Policy, Erfurt University, Germany, and a Bachelor of Laws (L.L.B) from Haramaya University, Ethiopia. She has worked as a public prosecutor, an attaché, and a peace project officer in Ethiopia. Her main research interests are peace- and institution-building, post-conflict countries, democratization and elections, traditional conflict resolution methods, and international law.

  1. Dr.Kifle Jote

    Dear Jalale, my warm greetings. To make your information complete and accurate I decided to add the following to the information that was released by. Two professos from the Stockholm university:
    1. Professor Said Mohamoudi (Swedish- Iranian) – department of International & has lectures at the Hague,
    2. Prof David Fisher ,(an American) lecturing international law at the Stockholm University- produced several books in the field including space law and human rights are among people who cooperated in nominating the PM. for the price. I wanted them to meet the PM in Stockholm, unfortunetly it proved to be impossible.
    Good Luck with your effort.
    For more information, you can reach me:
    Kifle Jote (Dr.,)