Global Politics

Ethiopia's parliament approves Sahle-Work Zewde as the first female president

Ethiopia's first female president stands at the podium.

Sahle-Work Zewde, director-general of the United Nations office in Nairobi, Kenya, prepares to address delegates attending the first United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, Kenya, June 23, 2014.

Credit:

Noor Khamis/Reuters

Ethiopia's parliament has approved senior diplomat Sahle-Work Zewde as the country's first female president, proceedings on state television showed, cementing another shift in the country's political system from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Sahle-Work is at present UN under-secretary general and special representative of the secretary general to the African Union. She replaces Mulatu Teshome Wirtu, who tendered his resignation to parliament earlier on Wednesday.

The president's post is a ceremonial one in Ethiopia. The prime minister, who is the head of state, holds executive power. Fitsum Arega, Abiy's chief of staff, announced the news on Twitter:

Last week, 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 balance 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.

Mulatu, 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 Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front 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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