Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has spoken movingly about his experiences during the Ethiopia-Eritrea war as he accepted this year’s Nobel Peace Prize in the Norwegian capital, Oslo.
He was awarded the prize mainly for his efforts in ending the tension between the neighbouring countries.
Mr Abiy told the audience of dignitaries that he was a soldier in the countries’ 1998-2000 border war. He said his entire unit was wiped out in an artillery attack on the town of Badme – the flash point for the war.
“War is the epitome of hell for all involved,” he said.
This inspired him to argue that “the imaginary wall needed to be torn down and replaced by a bridge of friendship”. He also praised his Eritrean counterpart President Isaias Afwerki for being a partner in the process.
“Peace is a labour of love,” he said and warned that “sustaining peace is hard work. It takes a few to make war, but it takes a village and a nation to build peace.”
“There is no us and them. There is only us, for we are all bound by a shared destiny of love, forgiveness and reconciliation.”
Turning to the source of potential unrest he said that “the evangelists of hate and division are wreaking havoc in our society using social media. They are preaching the gospel of revenge and retribution on the airwaves.”
He also spoke about respecting human rights in Ethiopia and beyond, adding that the “young men and women [of Africa] are crying out for social and economic justice”.