Sahle-Work Zewde has replaced Mulatu Teshome Wirtu, who tendered his resignation to parliament earlier this week, as Ethiopia’s president. Ethiopia’s parliament then approved Sahle-Work Zewde as the country’s new president, making her the first woman to hold the post in the country.
Sahle-Work, who is in her late 60s, has been Ethiopia’s ambassador to France, Djibouti, Senegal and the regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
Before her appointment as president, Zewde was the UN’s top official at the African Union. She is fluent in English and French as well as Amharic.
As president, she is expected to serve two six-year terms.
“In a historic move, the two Houses has elected Ambassador Shalework Zewde as the next President of Ethiopia. She is the first female head of state in modern Ethiopia,” Fitsum Arega, Abiy’s chief of staff, said on Twitter.
“In a patriarchal society such as ours, the appointment of a female head of state not only sets the standard for the future but also normalizes women as decision-makers in public life.”
Just a week before, when the prime minister reshuffled his cabinet, he appointed 10 female ministers, making Ethiopia the third country in Africa, after Rwanda and Seychelles, to achieve gender parity in their cabinets.
“When there is no peace in the country, mothers will be frustrated. Therefore, we need to work on peace for the sake of our mothers,” Sahle-Work told parliament after her approval.
Teshome, who had held the office for five years, departed one year ahead of his term ending, saying he wanted to be part of change and reforms. Sahle-Work becomes the fourth president since the ruling EPRDF coalition came to power.
Since his appointment in April, Abiy has presided over a raft of reforms that have turned the region’s politics on its head, including the pardoning of dissidents long outlawed by the government.
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