Ethiopia wants to arrest a UK academic who nominated country's PM for Nobel Peace Prize

Will Brown
Tigray refugee women help each other carry their belongings after they arrive on the banks of the Tekeze River on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in Hamdayet - Nariman El-Mofty /AP
Tigray refugee women help each other carry their belongings after they arrive on the banks of the Tekeze River on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in Hamdayet - Nariman El-Mofty /AP

Ethiopia wants to arrest a British academic who helped the country's Prime Minister win last year's Nobel Peace Prize, according to the country's state media. 

Awol Allo, a senior lecturer in law at the University of Keele, wrote to the Nobel Committee Members in Oslo nominating Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for the prize in January 2019. 

Mr Allo made the argument that Africa's youngest leader should get the award for ending a two-decade-long conflict with Eritrea and for "spectacular achievements in areas of sustainable peace" and "democratisation" during his first nine months in office.

But last week, Ethiopian state media said that the Federal Police Commission had issued arrest warrants for Mr Allo along with seven other Ethiopian activists, writers and academics, for using "using a variety of media outlets to destroy the country." The Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation also posted Mr Allo's photo on its Facebook page. 

Mr Allo, who was born in Ethiopia and is now a British citizen, has become increasingly critical of the prime minister since he penned his letter to the Nobel committee almost two years ago.   

The academic has regularly taken to international media outlets like Al Jazeera, CNN and the BBC to criticise what he sees as Mr Abiy's growing authoritarianism, the repression of journalists and political dissidents in Ethiopia. 

More recently, Mr Allo has publicly criticised Mr Abiy's decision to send the Ethiopia powerful federal army into the country's northern Tigray region to oust the regional government there on November 4th. 

Tigray refugees arrive on the banks of the Tekeze River on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in Hamdayet - Nariman El-Mofty /AP
Tigray refugees arrive on the banks of the Tekeze River on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in Hamdayet - Nariman El-Mofty /AP

Last week, before the announcement on state media, Mr Allo penned a damming op-ed against Mr Abiy on Al Jazeera's website. "The war in Tigray is a continuation of the violent and widespread repression Abiy began in Oromia, Walaita and Sidama against those who resisted his vision of the future," he wrote, referring to different regions in the country.

"After silencing dissent and opposition elsewhere in the country, Abiy and his camp are turning to Tigray, the last frontier in the battle over the character of the Ethiopian state," Mr Allo added.  

Since the conflict erupted in Tigray thousands have been killed, tens of thousands have been displaced, and major population centres have been shelled by artillery and explosive mortars. Eritrea, whose dictator is a sworn enemy of Tigray leadership, is also reportedly heavily involved in the fighting. 

"I am not surprised at all by this news. Abiy Ahmed has shown that he is very intolerant of any kind of dissent or criticism. It's not just Awol Allo who he has targeted. He is arresting people left, right and centre. In my opinion, he is a dictator in the making,” said Yohannes Woldemariam, an academic focusing on the Horn of Africa. 

"I think the Nobel Committee made a very big mistake. They saw Abiy smiling and he dresses well. I guess he has some currency these days. They were looking for an Africa success story. That's why they gave him the peace prize but there is no peace. Ethiopia is basically an empire which is fracturing apart.”

The Telegraph contacted Ethiopia's attorney general for comment on the reported charge filed against Mr Allo but had not received a reply at the time of going to press.