Jean-Jacques Cornish

Not the behavior of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate

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Is Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed heading towards becoming the least deserving Nobel Peace Prize laureate since Aung San Suu Kyi?

Ahmed won the coveted prize last year largely for forging a complex and difficult peace with neighboring Eritrea.

In doing so he greatly assisted stability in the Horn of Africa, one of the most dangerous hotspots on the planet.

He has yet to match domestically what he has achieved regionally.

In that respect he’s like the 1991 peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

She richly deserved the prize awarded for her doughty resistance to the brutal military regime in Myanmar.

Her star has faded of late because of her stubborn refusal to speak out against what is to all intents and purposes a genocide against the Rohingya people – a Muslim minority in a majority Buddhist country.

Ahmed has decided to show his muscle against the minority Tigray people.

Comprising only six percent of Ethiopia 110 million people they dominated business and politics until Ahmed from the majority  Oromo ethnic group took the helm.

The Tigrayan have a special place in Ethiopia’s history.

Legend has it their land bordering Eritrea was the home of the  Queen of Sheba.

A church in Tigray is said to house the Ark of the Covenant.

In 1991, the same year Aung San Suu Kyi won her Nobel Prize the Tigrayan led the fight to topple the cruel Derg regime in Ethiopia.

They have, of late become hugely angry at Ahmed reforms, claiming that they are becoming increasingly marginalized.

They are not the only ethnic group to oppose Ahmed’s reforms.

On November 4, Tigrayan rebels attacked a government military base.

There is no reliable indication of casualties.

Indeed the toll from three weeks of fighting is difficult to ascertain.

It is said to be hundreds, perhaps thousands.

The United Nations says if reports of attacks against civilians are true, it would amount to war crimes.

At least 40 000 Tigrayan have fled into neighboring Sudan to escape the fighting.

The Tigrayan have ratcheted up things with rocket attacks into Eritrea to the north and the Ethiopian province of Amhara to the South.

Ahmed’s assurance that the insurrection would not become a war has proved to be optimistic.

Fearful of a regional conflagration, the United Nations, European Union and African Union have all urgently called for an immediate ceasefire.

Ahmed is having none of it.

He says he will talk to the three AU envoys named to broker a peace.

Indeed he is open to negotiations with anyone except the Tigrayan leadership.

He has surrounded the Tigray capital of Mek’ele and warned residents to save themselves.

His uncompromising call to the Tigray leadership at the weekend was: “You have 72 hours to surrender.” 

He believes that Ethiopia will be pulled apart if he does not completely subdue Tigray. 

Angry and undoubtedly provoked, his bellicose language can be understood.

Nevertheless, it is not the behavior of an internationally acclaimed peacemaker.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.