In recent years, we have seen some unfortunate yet eye-catching choices for the Nobel Peace Prize, including Al Gore, Yasser Arafat, and Barack Obama. The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize only continues in 50% of the tradition: the choice is still somewhat unfortunate but the new laureates are not famous in the West.
The Nobel Peace Prize committee has openly declared that they chose the winners because they are women of color and what is needed for peace is to elevate women of color. I appreciate that they're candid but I don't appreciate the logic.
Sirleaf (who is 1/4 German and 3/4 black) is the first (and, currently, only) woman president in Africa – the current president of Liberia, a Western African country known for having the second largest number of ships in the world (after Panama: because it allows the foreign ships to get registered).
Her background is Americo-Liberian (former black slaves who returned from America to Africa in the 19th century). She studied accounting in Wisconsin and economics in Colorado which was enough to make a big career back in Liberia.
Gbowee is Liberian peace activist. A movie made her moderately famous, a hero. I don't think I will dedicate her more time than that because the information doesn't look sufficiently interesting. Liberia has become heavily overrepresented not only among ships' flags but also in the Nobel prizes.
Karman is a Yemeni activist and journalist. I guess that she's not the only one. Right now, Google produced just 6,000 hits with her name. The number will surely grow by orders of magnitude because of the decision in Oslo.
This is clearly a prize that doesn't reward achievements and contributions to peace and it seems that the committee hasn't even tried to pretend otherwise.
The 2011 Nobel Prize for literature went to Tomas Tranströmer, an unknown 80-year-old Swedish poet.