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Posts falsely suggest that Abiy Ahmed's Nobel Peace Prize is up for revocation

By AFP Fact Check | June 17th 2021

2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, signs the Nobel Protocol at his arrival in Oslo, Norway. [Reuters]

Several posts circulating in Ethiopia claim that British newspaper The Guardian announced that the Nobel Committee might revoke Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s peace prize due to the ongoing conflict in the northern region of Tigray. However, this is false. Although The Guardian ran an opinion piece whose author suggested that the Nobel Committee should resign in “protest and defiance” against atrocities committed in Tigray, he did not write that the committee is considering revoking Abiy's prize. According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, it is impossible to withdraw a prize.

The claim has been shared 90 times since it was published on June 7, 2021, on a Facebook page called “Qeerroo Finfinne”, an account that belongs to “an Oromo national youth network movement for Oromo freedom and democracy”, according to its "about" section. Oromos constitute the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia.

“Breaking News! According to the international media The Guardian, following human rights violations, genocide and war crimes being committed in Tigray by Abiy's government, the Nobel committee is considering stripping the Nobel Peace Prize awarded by error to Colonel Abiy,” the translated caption of the post reads. It then links out to an article on The Guardian's website.

The false Facebook post includes a picture taken during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on December 10, 2019, in the Oslo City Hall in Norway, as well as a link to an opinion article published on The Guardian's website.

The same claim was also shared on Facebook here and here.

Screenshot of the false post, taken on June 14, 2021. [Courtesy]

In 2019, Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the 20-year-old stalemate between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019 to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali 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 press release of the Nobel Foundation reads.

However, Abiy’s reputation as a peacemaker has been tarnished as he waged a military campaign starting in November 2020 in the Tigray region, where the United Nations announced more than 90 percent of people are in need of emergency food aid.

The false claim emerged after Kjetil Tronvoll, a Norwegian university professor and Africa analyst, published an opinion piece in The Guardian titled “The Nobel committee should resign over the atrocities in Tigray” on June 7, 2021. This is the article that the false Facebook post links out to.

Tronvoll explains in his article that once a prize is awarded, it cannot be withdrawn and proposes that the committee should collectively resign "in protest and defiance" and let the Norwegian parliament appoint a new committee.

No removal of the peace prize is mentioned in the article.

Statutes of the Nobel Foundation

The Nobel Foundation states on its website under "Frequently Asked Questions" that prizes cannot be revoked: "Neither Alfred Nobel’s will nor the Statutes of the Nobel Foundation mention any such possibility."

The tenth statute of the Nobel Foundation states that “no appeals may be made against the decision of a prize-awarding body with regard to the award of a prize.”

The Foundation also states that, for the same reasons, Nobel committees never reconsider their choices.

When rumours that Abiy's prize might be revoked first started circulating last year, the Nobel Committee published a statement to dismiss them.

"Upon request I hereby confirm that the members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee stand firmly behind their decision of last year to award the Nobel Peace Prize 2019 to His Excellency Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The Committee has never reconsidered its decision nor, as for now, has it any intention to do so," wrote Olav Njølstad, the Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, on behalf of the Nobel Committee.

"As a matter of fact, the statutes of the Norwegian Nobel Committee do not allow it to revoke a Peace Prize once awarded. The same goes for the other Nobel committees and Nobel Prizes as well. Indeed, not a single Nobel Prize has ever been revoked since the first prizes were awarded back in 1901."

In May 2018, a petition was submitted to the UK parliament to revoke ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize. The petition was rejected as “the UK Government and Parliament aren't responsible for the Nobel Peace Prize”.

Upcoming elections

Once delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic and a second time due to mounting logistical issues, Ethiopia's poll body said national elections would be held on June 21, 2021, despite growing concern over famine in war-torn Tigray.

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