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Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed wins Nobel peace prize

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019 in recognition of his efforts to end his country’s two-decade border conflict with Eritrea.

The Norwegian Nobel Institute on Friday also praised the “important reforms” that Abiy, Ethiopia’s leader since April 2018, has launched at home. The prize comes as Abiy faces pressure to uphold the sweeping freedoms he introduced, and critics warn that his ability to deal with rising domestic unrest may be slipping.

The Nobel committee said some people may consider it too early to give him the prize, but “it is now that Abiy Ahmed’s efforts need recognition and deserve encouragement.”

The award, the 100th Nobel Peace Prize, reflects the committee’s taste for trying to encourage works in progress.

Abiy said he was “humbled and thrilled.”

In a call with the Nobel committee, he laid out his hope that the award will be taken “positively” by other African leaders “to work on (the) peacebuilding process on our continent.”

Abiy, 43, took office after widespread protests pressured the longtime ruling coalition and hurt one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Africa’s youngest leader quickly announced dramatic reforms and “Abiymania” began.

On taking office, Abiy surprised people by fully accepting a peace deal ending a 20-year border war between the two East African nations that saw tens of thousands of people killed. Ethiopia and Eritrea had not had diplomatic ties since the war began in 1998, with Abiy himself once fighting in a town that remained contested at the time of his announcement last year.

Within weeks, the visibly moved Eritrean president, Isaias Afwerki, visited Addis Ababa and communications and transport links were restored. For the first time in two decades, long-divided families made tearful reunions.

The improving relations led to the lifting of United Nations sanctions on Eritrea, one of the world’s most reclusive nations. But Ethiopia’s reforms do not appear to have inspired any in Eritrea, which has since closed border posts with its neighbour.

The Nobel committee also pointed to Abiy’s other efforts toward reconciliation in the region — between Eritrea and Djibouti, between Kenya and Somalia, and in Sudan.

Ethiopia is Africa’s second-largest country in terms of population with about 110 million people.

Eritrea, which has a population of about 4 million, gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year guerrilla war. About 80,000 people died in a war between the two countries from 1998-2000.

The Nobel committee acknowledged that “peace does not arise from the actions of one party alone.”

It said that when Abiy “reached out his hand, President Afwerki grasped it, and helped to formalize the peace process between the two countries.”

It added that it “hopes the peace agreement will help to bring about positive change for the entire populations of Ethiopia and Eritrea.”

The government of Eritrea, still one of the world’s most closed-off nations, did not immediately comment but its ambassador to Japan tweeted congratulations, adding: “People of #Eritrea & #Ethiopia with blood, sweat & tears have won again over evil.”

Leaders elsewhere in Africa, including those of Liberia, Ghana and neighbouring Somalia, responded with praise and encouragement. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he has often stated that “winds of hope are blowing ever stronger across Africa” and that Abiy was one of the main reasons why.

The U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia joined in the congratulations, noting the “incredible progress” made under Abiy.

At home, Abiy offered one political surprise after another. He released tens of thousands of prisoners, welcomed home once-banned opposition groups and acknowledged past abuses. People expressed themselves freely on social media, and he announced that Ethiopia would hold free and fair elections in 2020. The country has one of the world’s few “gender-balanced” Cabinets and a female president, a rarity in Africa.

And for the first time Ethiopia had no journalists in prison, media groups noted last year.

The new prime minister also announced the opening-up of Ethiopia’s tightly controlled economy, saying private investment would be welcome in major state-owned sectors — a process that continues slowly.

But while Abiy became a global darling, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, troubles arose at home.

A grenade was thrown at him during an appearance in the capital. A large group of soldiers confronted him in his office in what he called an attempt to derail his reforms. In a display of the brio that has won Abiy widespread admiration, the former military officer defused the situation by dropping to the floor and joining the troops in pushups.

More troubling these days are Ethiopia’s rising ethnic tensions, as people once stifled by repression now act on long-held grievances. Some 1,200 people have been killed and some 1.2 million displaced in the greatest challenge yet to Abiy’s rule. Some observers warn that the unrest will grow ahead of next year’s election.

The Nobel committee acknowledged that “many challenges remain unresolved.”

Amnesty International secretary Kumi Naidoo said the award should “push and motivate (Abiy) to tackle the outstanding human rights challenges that threaten to reverse the gains made so far.”

“He must urgently ensure that his government addresses the ongoing ethnic tensions that threaten instability and further human rights abuses,” Naidoo said.

Abiy had been among the favourites for this year’s prize in the run-up to Friday’s announcement, though winners are notoriously hard to predict. The Nobel committee doesn’t reveal the names of candidates or nominations for 50 years.

The committee has in the past used its prestigious award to nudge a peace process forward and Friday’s recognition of Abiy falls into that line of thinking.

“The committee want to be actors. They want to make decisive interventions because the world listens to their opinion, Nobel historian Oeivind Stenersen said. “There have been laureates such as (Jose Ramos) Horta in East Timor who have said that the prize was crucial in the process. The committee will hope to emulate that.”

Since 1901, 99 Nobel Peace Prizes have been handed out, to individuals and 24 organizations. While the other prizes are announced in Stockholm, the peace prize is awarded in the Norwegian capital, Oslo.

So far this week, 11 Nobel laureates have been named. The others received their awards for their achievements in medicine , physics , chemistry and literature . There were two literature laureates, Poland’s Olga Tokarczuk and Austria’s Peter Handke, after no prize was awarded last year due to sex abuse allegations that rocked the Swedish Academy.

With the glory comes a 9-million kronor ($918,000) cash award, a gold medal and a diploma. Even though the peace prize is awarded in Norway, the amount is denominated in Swedish kronor.

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Read more stories on the 2019 Nobel Prizes by The Associated Press at https://www.apnews.com/NobelPrizes

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Anna reported from Johannesburg and Moulson reported from Berlin. Mark Lewis in Oslo, Norway and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark also contributed.

Elias Meseret, Cara Anna And Geir Moulson, The Associated Press






The Canadian Press is a national news agency headquartered in Toronto, Canada. It was established in 1917 as a vehicle to permit Canadian newspapers of the day to exchange their news and information. For most of its history, The Canadian Press has been a private, not-for-profit cooperative, owned and operated by its member newspapers. In mid-2010, however, it announced plans to become a for-profit business owned by three media companies once certain conditions are met.

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First Nations displaced by storm share concerns with Scheer campaign

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WINNIPEG — Families forced to flee the Lake Manitoba First Nation are expressing frustration around evacuation efforts following a recent snowstorm that’s left thousands of people in the province without electricity for days.

Babies and seniors alike were crowded into a Winnipeg hotel lobby on Monday waiting for buses in one what woman described as a maddening series of events that have left people feeling like animals.

They said they weren’t sure where the buses would be taking them.

By coincidence, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s campaign arrived at the hotel and some of the evacuees asked for a chance to express their concerns to the media.

Margaret Missyabit’s voice broke as she described walking out of her home on Saturday when the power went out to try and find out what was going on, saying the community was given little time to gather the things they needed before leaving.

Nearly 21,000 Manitoba homes and businesses remained without power early Monday in the wake of a snowstorm that the province’s Crown energy utility said had left an unprecedented amount of damage to transmission lines, towers and more, and will take days to repair.

The Canadian Red Cross opened a warming shelter at the RBC Convention Centre in downtown Winnipeg over the weekend for the First Nations, which it said was necessary because of the potential number of evacuees as well as a lack of available hotel rooms.

Premier Brian Pallister declared a state of emergency early Sunday morning.

The move makes it easier for Manitoba Hydro crews to access private land and invokes help from neighbouring provinces and states — Ontario, Saskatchewan and Minnesota — who were being asked for workers, poles and even transmission towers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Oct. 14, 2019

The Canadian Press

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‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his wife’s death

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TORONTO — Cialin Dany knew he was in trouble when he saw a massive palm tree laying on the ground next to the Abaco Lodge.

As hurricane Dorian whirled at the door, Dany, 32, took his Canadian wife, Alishia Liolli, and two of their children and hunkered down in a room at the fishing resort where he worked. Then another tree slammed into the building.

“The bolts start popping, like popcorn, pop, pop, pop, pop,” Dany said. “Then whoosh, the roof flew off.”

The family and a friend who was with them ducked for cover under the bed and prayed. They watched as the wall in the back of the room swayed.

“Then the wall came down,” Dany said as he recalled the events of Sept. 1.

The wall pinned all five underneath the bed. Their 18-month-old son Evans and Dany’s 11-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, Kescianna, wailed with fear.

Dany’s breathing laboured — the bed frame dug into his neck and right shoulder.

“Daddy, daddy, you don’t sound too good,” his daughter said.

“Count to 500 and I’m going to figure something out,” he said.

“I say to God, ‘if you give me 45 minutes, I swear to you I can save them.'”

He grabbed a piece of wood that flew into the room, jammed it under the bed frame and hit it repeatedly. The pressure on his neck eased. He moved a bit and grabbed another errant piece of wood and smashed the wall. He kicked his way through the rubble and slipped out from underneath the bed.

He scrambled to his feet, grabbed another piece of wood to lever the bed, but the wood broke. 

“I need help,” he said to his family.

Liolli told him to get a sledge hammer that was in another room. Dany slammed the tool into the wall, trying to break it up, but the handle snapped in two.

“I’m in really big trouble now,” he thought to himself.

He tried lifting the bed near his friend, Luke Saint Victor, figuring if he could get another adult out, the two of them could save the rest. 

“I ask God for one pound of strength more,” he said.

He moved the bed up a bit, enough for his daughter to get out, then he turned to his wife, who was pinned under the wall.

“I say, ‘Alishia, come on baby, it’s your turn,'” Dany said.

“She threw me Evans and said ‘save the kids!'”

Meanwhile, the water outside the one-storey building continued to rise.

“I’m going for help,” he yelled.

He took the children and got into his car, but glass in the doors began to burst. A shard lodged near baby Evans’ eye. Blood flowed.

“Everything was flying, shingles flying, wood flying,” Dany said.

The water rose fast. The car doors would not open, and his daughter started screaming.

“You are a track star,” he told her. “You can do it, just run. When I tell you to move, we move.”

Dany crawled out the window, took the kids and sprinted to a dumpster that had been blown on its side. They hid there for hours as maggots crawled everywhere.

A slight reprieve came when dawn broke and the sun peeked out. He returned to the lodge to try and save his wife and friend, but  he couldn’t lift up the wall.

Liolli told him to go get help.

Dany dropped his children off at their pastor’s home, found a chainsaw that he hoped would free his wife and friend, and headed back to the lodge, which by then had been flooded.

He called out to his wife and heard his friend, Luke Saint Victor, say in a faint voice “the water came up, the water came up.'”

When the chainsaw failed, Dany used an axe to cut the wall into pieces and finally removed the bed.

Underneath, his wife wasn’t breathing. He performed CPR, but it didn’t work.

“The problem was when she went under the bed, she went on her belly and Luke went on his back,” Dany said. “The water came up, not much, like an inch or two, but it was enough.”

Liolli had drowned.

“My head went blank,” Dany said. “I was crying like a crazy man, just freaking out. I held her in my arms.”

But there was no time for a long embrace. He flagged down a passing power truck, placed Liolli and Saint Victor on the flatbed and then rushed to the clinic. The chief of police, who was there dealing with a flood of bodies being brought in, saw Liolli.

“She’s already gone,” he told Dany.

Dany said he had to get back to his kids. He left Liolli there and prayed Saint Victor would pull through. His friend would die a few days later in Nassau.

After reuniting with his children, Dany called Liolli’s family in LaSalle, Ont., to deliver the news.

Dany later returned to the clinic to figure out how to get Liolli’s body off the island. The authorities moved it to a courtyard along with dozens of other bodies, hidden from the public, but it took a while for Dany to figure that out.

“Nobody would give me an answer, nobody was helping,” he said.

Time was a problem. A body doesn’t last long in the Bahamas heat.

“The smell was starting to rise up on the island,” he said. “I needed to get the boy out of there. It was crowded, dark, and I didn’t trust anyone.”

The airport and docks were overrun with crowds, so he drove to Treasure Cay where he and Evans spent two days outside, getting bit by spiders and bugs, as they waited for a flight off the island. His daughter Kescianna stayed with his ex-wife.

The pair got to Nassau, where Deny was faced with a bureaucratic nightmare that went on for days. Back in Canada, Liolli’s mom, Josie Mcdonagh, tried frantically to get the authorities to help. 

About a week later, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called the family.

“She helped a lot,” Mcdonagh said.

Liolli’s body finally made it to Nassau on Sept. 11. Dany had to identify it.

“I did not want to see her like that, but I had to,” he said. “I had to.”

Liolli’s body was too decomposed to be transported, so he and the family decided on cremation.

It took 20 days to get her remains to Canada.

“I just wanted her family to have something, so they could go somewhere and know where she is,” Dany said.

The family held a funeral and placed Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont. Afterward, they held a wedding for Liolli and Dany — they were common law wife and husband for years — complete with open bar.

“She’s home now,” her mother said.

Last week, Liolli’s family and friends gathered at Ryerson University in downtown Toronto to celebrate her life. Her former sociology professor, Jean Golden, has launched a fundraising campaign to help rebuild Every Child Counts — a vocational school for children with special needs in Abaco that Liolli helped build and run. The school was destroyed during the hurricane.

“Alishia’s dream will never be destroyed,” Golden said through tears.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2019.

On the web:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/every-child-counts-school-in-abaco-bahamas

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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