By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with VC Cho Kyung-hee, Editor Kim Hyung-dae
Ambassador Shiferaw Shigutie of Ethiopia in Seoul said, “As you all know, the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, H.E. Dr. Abiy Ahmed, who forged a peace deal with Eritrea last year, has won the 2019 Nobel peace prize.” Speaking at a reception which Ambassador and Mrs. Shigutie hosted at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul on Nov. 4, 2019, the Ethiopian envoy then added, “The award recognized Dr. Abiy’s efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea.”
The party was attended by ranking officials of the Korean government, ambassadors of various countries of the world, and civic and business leaders of Korea and other countries of the world. Standing out from other guests were Deputy Speaker Lee Ju-young of the National Assembly, Ambassador Director General Hong Jin-wook of the Middle Eastern Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, Ambassador Sylvestre Kouassi Bile of Cote d’Ivoire (deputy dean of African Group of ambassadors), and Ambassador Choi Yeon-ho (president of Korea-African Foundation).
From the religious circles came Venerable Park Seung-eok who headed the Cheonman-sa Buddhist Temple in Ulsan, concurrently the Korean honorary consul for Ethiopia in Seoul. From the media came many leaders and editors who included Publisher-Chairman Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post media (publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean news media organizations since 1985). In response to the speech of Ambassador Shigutie, Deputy Speaker Lee Ju-young of the National Assembly of Korea said: “Since the inception of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, there have been 12 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates from the African continent. Albert Luthuli, the president of the African National Congress, was the first person outside Europe and the Americas who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960.” (See excerpts at the end of this report.)
Excerpts from the speech of H.E. Ambassador Shiferaw Shigutie Wolassa of Ethiopia:
H.E. Hong Jin Wook, Director General of African and Middle Eastern Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea, Honorable Mr. LEE Ju-young, Deputy Speaker of National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, H.E. Sylvestre KOUASSI BILE, Ambassador of Cote d’Ivoire and Deputy Dean of African Group of Ambassadors, H.E. Amb. Choi Yeon-ho, President of Korea-African Foundation Dear fellow African Ambassadors, Dear Friends of Ethiopia Ladies and Gentlemen, At the outset, please allow me to give my special thanks to all honorable guests and Ethiopian community members who have honored us with your presence out of your busy schedule.
As you all know, the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, H.E. Dr. Abiy Ahmed, who forged a peace deal with Eritrea last year, has won the 2019 Nobel peace prize. The award recognized Dr. Abiy’s efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea. The winds of change blew across the Horn of Africa following the signing peace agreement by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki in 2018. The two countries have ceased hostilities and restored trade and diplomatic ties, and have planned joint projects. After a bitter war that lasted 2 years (from 1998 to 2000), the two countries have been in a state of "No War, No Peace" during which as many as tens of thousands were killed, both countries were suffered from communication breakdown between families, infrastructure damage, dislocated millions of people, frozen all trade and economic relations and barred human mobility.
A peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea solved all those sufferings. The agreement has enabled air services to resume, phone lines to reopen, military hostilities to cease and families to reunite. As the agreement was announced, hundreds of citizens hugged each other in their respective countries and celebrated. Their leaders have also officially opened the crossing points of their shared border, which had been closed for 20 years. Just a year ago, Prime Minister Abiy’s pledge to pursue peace and shared prosperity between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and to achieve improvements in the two countries’ relations, could have seemed fanciful to many. But he never gave up to work together towards a brighter future of peaceful coexistence.
Dr. Abiy has also pushed through reforms at home. He is currently conducting massive economic and political reform in Ethiopia. He freed political prisoners jailed by previous administrations, and restored the legitimacy of parties formerly branded as terrorist organizations. Almost single-handedly, Dr. Abiy appeared to have restored people’s faith in their political institutions. Besides political reform, Dr. Abiy Ahmed is also focusing economic reform. He has reiterated his plan to open up a hitherto government-owned public enterprises such as telecommunication and logistics. The new administration has announced that it wants to sell stakes in state-owned public enterprises in the hope that the private sector will boost already fast growing economy and create jobs for the hundreds of thousands of young Ethiopians entering the market each year.
Instead of dismantling the existing system, Dr. Abiy opted for internal transformation. It has taken tremendous courage to break away from a powerful political machine while remaining within the system. But he has stuck to his beliefs, even promoting the notion of “Medemer” – synergy and togetherness, which means to bring together all positive energies to enhance economic and social transformation and to build democratic governance. In his short time in office, Dr. Abiy has also played a significant role as a regional peace mediator in neighboring countries such as Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia etc.
When Dr. Martin Luther King accepted the Nobel peace prize in 1964, he spoke of leaving Oslo “inspired with renewed dedication to humanity”. It is firmly believed that, like King, Dr. Abiy will interpret the prize not as a capstone to his efforts, but as a commission to work harder than ever for peace and justice. By championing the cause of those on the margins, he would be fulfilling the highest duty of a statesman. Tonight, we celebrate Ethiopia’s many great achievements including the award of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize to Dr. Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of the F.D.R. of Ethiopia, and we look forward to an even greater future in particular under the excellent leadership of the Prime Minister.
Excellencies, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Recently, the peace process on the Korean Peninsula is under way to bring fundamental changes in the security situation of the Peninsula with the determination for peaceful coexistence. Sharing a bond cemented by blood and sharing belief in peace and freedom is now becoming a central pillar of our partnership between Ethiopia and Korea. I wish for peace and prosperity of both countries as well as our enduring friendship. Once again, I would like to thank you all for attending this reception to congratulate the award of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize to the H.E. Dr. Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of the F.D.R. of Ethiopia.
Fellow Ethiopians, On this special day, I would like to thank you for your contributions to the peace, stability and prosperity of your homeland. You play an invaluable part in determining the future of our beautiful nation. Finally, I would like to urge our fellow Ethiopians to be more involved and engaged in peace, freedom and prosperity of Ethiopia and its people. I would like once again to thank all of you for coming and gracing us by your presence. Thank you.
Congratulatory Remarks by Deputy Speaker Lee Ju-young of National Assembly:
Your Excellency, Ambassador Shiferaw Shigutie Wolassa, and African Group of Ambassadors (AGA) in Korea and distinguished guests. I sincerely congratulate the award of the 100th Nobel Peace Prize to H.E. Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, and I am truly honored to be here at with all of you.
Ethiopia and Eritrea had remained in military confrontation for a long time despite the ceasefire agreement in the 2000's. In April of 2018, H.E. Abiy Ahmed reached out to Eritrea in initiating the reconciliation process and suggested establishment of embassies in both countries. On July 9, 2018, H.E. Abiy Ahmed visited President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea, and together they officially proclaimed the end of the war. And on September 16, 2018, we witnessed the signing of the peace treaty.
Prime Minister H.E. Abiy Ahmed continued in his efforts to improve the relationship with other neighboring countries, including Somalia. This brought to the reopening of the aviation service between Somalia and Ethiopia. Prime Minister H.E. Abiy Ahmed has dedicated himself to peace building in the horn of Africa resolving the existing strife and conflicts. We also are the beneficiaries of the devotion of Ethiopian leaders in bringing peace to the world. During the Korean War in 1950, with the support of Ethiopia and the international society, the Republic of Korea regained peace and became the nation that we are now.
Dear honored guests! Since the inception of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, there have been 12 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates from the African continent. Albert Luthuli, the president of the African National Congress, was the first person outside Europe and the Americas who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960. Not to mention the symbol of peace and dedication to human rights, President Nelson Mandela in 1993, and Doctor Denis Mukwege from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2018. The African Union is also making serious efforts for peace building and peace-making, including the launch of the Silencing the Guns by 2020 Initiative.
Ambassador Wolassa and dear honored guests! Once again, I congratulate you on the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to H.E. Aby Ahmed, and I wish for the prosperity of Ethiopia and the continued friendship between Ethiopia and Korea. Thank you.