A few days ago a colleague of mine asked me if I am still connected to the area of my origin. I answered yes wondering what the question was about. Questions about my origin always have a special meaning to me for various reasons. I was born in Eritrea and migrated to Germany in 1982 as a political refugee with my family. I was a child when I came to Germany but East Africa and Africa, in general, have a very special place in my heart. He showed me the news and told me that the Prime Minister of Ethiopia was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. I was so happy, and I am still happy. Congratulations to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. It was a great day. I am so moved that someone from East Africa was rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. I wish Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed the best. Africa is a great continent with a rich history and wonderful people who gave birth to humankind. It deserves peace and prosperity like any place on earth and I hope this gesture will strengthen the people who are willing to work for a bright future in Africa as part of the human family.
If you made it so far. Thank you for your patience and I hope you share my happiness.
Now to the part where I just want to share some thoughts and feelings which are deeply unfair, biased and politically incorrect. I am tired of trying to be fair and balanced so bear with me.
Trying to understand what the Nobel Peace Prize is about I read the short article on Wikipedia Nobel Peace Prize. The interesting part is ‘according to Nobel’s will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who in the preceding year “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”‘. A wonderful cause I think and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed fits perfectly. Just to remind you the Eritrean-Ethiopian-War was a gruesome war which cost more than 100000 lives. I remember when the war started in 1998 how sad and how depressed I was. Eritrea had struggled for 30 years to gain its rightful independence in 1991. People in both countries were happy when the independence war ended in 1991 after 30 horrible years. From 1991 till 1998 both economies were good, and the people started to live a normal life again. But in 1998 a war started again. Out of nowhere. There were a lot of discussions going on in how important and rightful the war was, but I refused to accept this narrative. I remember how I joined a demonstration in Frankfurt am Main against the war and for peace. It was a sad day. Only about 20 people appeared and at the end, the police kindly asked us to walk on the sidewalk because 20 people were not enough to justify stopping the traffic on the streets. Till this day I remember how many acquaintances and friends were so sure that the war was righteous and the cause worth it. I am simpleminded and cannot think of any cause worth 100000 lives. I felt like an idiot and went home from this demonstration deeply disturbed and depressed. For me life is precious. I am not talking about moral or religious or philosophical justification. It is simpler for me. Is there anything else? Every life is pure potential. You never know what the contribution of this life could be. 2018 the Ethiopian government reached out to the Eritrean counterpart and finally reached an agreement to end the war. What a relief. It was over. Finally. Peace. From my perspective, Abiy Ahmed deserves the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 because he acted in the spirit of Nobel and brought a ray of hope to an area which suffered war for so many years. Maybe it will not last. Maybe it was in vain. But it might inspire a new generation of young people to follow in his footsteps and improve the living condition of their fellow human being wherever they might be. Thank you, Mr Abiy Ahmed.
Thank you for bearing with me and now to the ugly part. Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Greta Thunberg did not win the Nobel Peace Prize. Some nominated her. Many supported or despised her. She is one poster child of our time. How dare one to even not to support her. The cause is so noble and finally, the current generation of young people is engaged. Yeah. Or not? There is a lot going on in our world and everyone has the right to choose what moves him or her. That is the beauty and freedom life give us. Our world is getting more complicated by the day but for some reason, we decided that the era of reason, philosophies, ideologies and world views is over. Everything which demands an attention span of more than 7 seconds is too complicated to cumbersome and too boring to catch our attention. Attention has become the currency of our days. And those who can catch our attention are king. Entertainment, edutainment, infotainment you name it. And who gets socially and materially awarded? The stars and starlets, Trump, Kim Kardashian, Obama and of course Greta Thunberg. I love gossip, entertainment and anything in between like anyone else but I am annoyed that it has become everything. There is too much noise and fuss going on too much distraction. I would like to believe that we live at least in a meritocracy. That talent, effort, achievement, courage and motivation are rewarded because those virtues from my point of view can bring out the best in us. Greta Thunberg did not win the Nobel Peace Prize. They have more articles about her not winning than the actual winner of Nobel Peace Prize Mr Abiy Ahmed. So many fans have been crying out loud foul. But why? I do not hate her or her cause or her movement and I am not even mildly interested in her or her movement. You know why she has nothing new to say. We have been talking about human-made climate change for at least 20 years now. Al Gore already got the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for the same cause. When I was in high school our chemistry teacher thought with us how the ozone layer was affected by human intervention and how the chemical equations work. And that an everyday thing like a refrigerator could damage the very atmosphere we depend on for our existence. We even discussed “Earth in the Balance” by Al Gore with our English teacher. How our quest for growth is killing us. That our political and economic systems have deep flaws despite the benefits we get from them. So, what is the point of the whole movement? For me, the importance lies in the fact that the people involved like Grete Thunberg shed a light on something important. Great and I applaud them for that. But that is it. Science is important and works. Really. What a wonderful revelation. I know alternative facts are more entertaining, but the things shouted out in the streets are common knowledge because people worked for that. They were common knowledge two decades ago. I would love to hear and see the scientist who worked for years to achieve this knowledge, but they are not trendy not fun and not entertaining. They should be rewarded and cherished. There should be a difference in perception between someone like Malala Yousafzai taking a bullet to her head for her convictions and actions and someone getting seasick taking a boot ride across the ocean. I think that Greta Thunberg is a wonderful human being and I wish her the best for her and her movement. To get it out of the way Obama should not have got the Nobel Peace Prize either. He is a wonderful symbol of hope how a human being can overcome so many obstacles and become a leader of a nation. A nation which enslaved his ancestors and treats so many people wrong to this very day. He will inspire generations to come to strive for the best. And I thank him for that. He is one of the most important American presidents and a symbol of change. But compare that with Nelson Mandela’s life. The Nobel Peace Prize. It is already in the name what it is given for. I hate relativism when it comes to human suffering and life challenges because anyone deserves the empathy for his struggle or her struggle but let’s try to be fair when we judge people and their achievements and even more when are praising them to a level of worldwide stardom. I love true greatness and it is inspiring and motivating. What bothers me is when people try to sell me something try to convince me of something which it is not. Lady Di or Mother Theresa. Nelson Mandela or Obama. Greta Thunberg or Mr Abiy Ahmed. It is not even a choice what real greatness is or at least how I perceive it. but ultimately it is your choice.
Thank you, Mr Abiy Ahmed, for being a ray of hope for peace and freedom in Africa and elsewhere in the world and thank you for the Nobel Price Committee for honouring the spirit of peace and freedom once again.