A Tale of Two Nobel Peace Prize Winners from Africa: Abiy Ahmed and Denis Mukwege
Two of the most recent recipients of the award for peace from Africa are, in 2018 and 2019 respectively, Dr Denis Mukwege, a gynaecologist and activist from DR Congo and Abiy Ahmed Ali from Ethiopia. Dr Denis Mukwege “campaigns globally to bring the use of rape as a weapon of war to an end. He was awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his activism.”
On the other hand, although a winner of the peace prize, Abiy Ahmed Ali, by leading an army that has committed horrifying crimes in Tigray, has proved to be a promotor of rape as weapon of war, as the whole world has been witnessing.
What a striking contrast between the two Nobel Peace Prize winning persons! What an ironic situation in Ethiopia in the 21st Century!
While the whole purpose of the Nobel Prize for Peace is peace building, Abiy Ahmed had been using the institutions of faith to support his propaganda and subsequent attack on Tigray in collusion with Eritrea’s Esaias Afewerki and Amhara regional leaders. He also used some local elders as facade of reconciliation and peace-making in an effort to buy time to prepare for the war on Tigrai.
Abiy Ahmed, who is supposed to be Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of Ethiopia, had publicly given orders on television to his troops to confiscate as an incentive for themselves whatever money and valuables they happen to find during illegal searches in Addis and other places including at border posts, effectively corrupting his forces and robbing and terrorizing citizens.
As the deliberate mass rape of women and girls currently happening now in Tigrai clearly indicates, there can be no doubt that Abiy Ahmed and Esaias had, during their numerous meetings and shuttle visits between Addis Ababa and Asmara, planned and given orders to their officers to use rape as weapon. In the chain of command that exists in the Ethiopian and Eritrean armies, no such act of terror can be used by armies without the orders of their commanders-in-chief, Abiy Ahmed and Esaias Afewerki. You can’t blame the crime only on ordinary soldiers who receive and execute orders. The whole responsibility lies squarely with the highest level of command. As Dr Denis Mukwege’s Foundation explains,
Armies employ sexual violence as a strategy to pursue their objectives. In other cases, commanders allow their soldiers to rape women and girls as a form of reward.
In the case of Tigrai both aims have been put into effect, i.e., firstly, using mass rape as a strategy of terrorizing and demoralising the civilian population, thereby trying to subdue it, and secondly, using rape of women and girls as a form of reward.
The fact that the crime of mass rape of women and girls in Tigrai still continues unabetted, Abiy and Esaias are not openly and strongly condemning, leave alone stopping the crime, clearly indicating their criminality in giving orders.
The medical doctor, activist and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr Denis Mukwege and his Foundation further describe the horrible manifestation of sexual violence used as a weapon of war:
It is often committed in public and by several attackers. It includes gang rape and attacks with objects and weapons, which are inserted in the victims’ vagina or anus.
Nothing more horrifying could happen to those we love: our mothers, sisters or daughters. Dr Mukwege is educating his country men and women and school children in order to create awareness and adopt appropriate ethical behaviour in gender relations. The same purpose is pursued in the police and armed forces.
Deliberately championing and abetting the use of rape as war weapon, as has become the case in Tigrai, is the most heinous crime under International Law. As Dr Mukwege and his Foundation emphatically explain:
Under international law, conflict-related sexual violence is characterised as war crimes and crimes against humanity. When it is committed with the intent to destroy a population, such as during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, systematic sexual violence can amount to genocide.
Isn’t this crime happening in Tigrai under the orders and full knowledge of execution by Abiy and Esaias and the Amhara regional leaders in Bahirdar?
The African Charter refers to Human Rights in Africa and particularly the protection and well being of women and children. Must Africa continue to be silent while all these crimes are being committed on women and girls in Tigrai? And indeed, tomorrow in other countries as it happened in Rwanda yesterday? Dr Denis Mukwege will definitely not agree to this! He fights sexual violence globally: wherever it happens and for whatever alleged reason. And that is where he differs fundamentally from Abiy Ahmed whose recognition with this noble prize actually makes a mockery of the nomination process.
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