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Ethiopia Elects Its First Woman President, Sahle-Work Zewde

By Parker Diakite

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Ethiopia’s parliament has elected the country’s first woman president.

 

In a unanimous vote on Thursday during the second Special Joint Session of Ethiopia’s two houses of parliament, the House of Peoples’ Representatives and the House of the Federation, legislators chose Sahle-Work Zewde, 69, for the role, according to Al Jazeera.

 

Prior to her appointment, Sahle-Work served as the United Nation’s special representative to the African Union as an under-secretary-general.

 

The vote from Ethiopia’s parliament comes one day after former president Mulatu Teshome submitted a letter of resignation to the country’s parliament.

 

After being sworn in, President Sahle-Work promised to work hard to make gender equality a reality in Ethiopia and pledged to promote peace, according to the BBC.

 

“I urge you all, to uphold our peace, in the name of a mother, who is the first to suffer from the absence of peace.”

 

Some Ethiopians have taken to social media to call the move by the country’s government “historic,” including Fitsum Arega, who serves chief of staff to the country’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed.

 

“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.”

Under Ethiopian law, the prime minister occupies the highest seat of power, but the president carries significant symbolic weight and social influence.

 

Sahle-Work will serve under Ahmed, who was elected this past April, Al Jazeera reports.

 

In addition to secretary-general with the United Nations, Sahle-Work Zewde served as the head of the UN office to the African Union.

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