Photo/Illutration Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed delivers a speech at the Nobel Peace Prize awarding ceremony held in Oslo in December 2019. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

When U.S. President Barack Obama was named the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, I went through overseas news clips, looking for reactions around the world that The Asahi Shimbun should share with its readers.

Words of praise for Obama were practically all I could find--except from former Polish President Lech Walesa.

Himself a 1983 Nobel Peace laureate for directing a successful resistance movement as the leader of Solidarity, the first independent labor union recognized in Poland, Walesa noted, "Who, Obama? So fast? Too fast--he hasn't had the time to do anything yet."

Obama won the prize for his commitment to his ideal of "a world without nuclear weapons." But that eventually fizzled, bearing out Walesa's premonition.

Of all the Nobel Prizes, the Peace Prize is the one that sometimes brings disappointing consequences.

This was the case with Aung San Suu Kyi, once the icon of democracy movement in Myanmar and the recipient of the 1991 Peace Prize while she was under house arrest.

But after she became Myanmar's top political leader, her administration condoned a bloody crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in what became an appalling humanitarian crisis.

The present situation in Ethiopia is no different. Several thousand people, including civilians, are reported to have been killed in an ongoing armed conflict between government forces and the Tigray People's Liberation Front, a political party in northern Ethiopia.

And leading the Ethiopian government is Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won last year's Nobel Peace Prize for resolving protracted border strife with neighboring Eritrea.

In his acceptance speech, he said, "There are those who have never seen war but glorify and romanticize it. War is the epitome of hell for all involved."

His words sound depressingly hollow now.

Is it not his own hard-line policy that has turned his land into the epitome of hell?

If the futility of expecting the Nobel Peace Prize to advance peace could be represented by a sound, I think I can almost imagine hearing it.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 2

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.