Ethiopia’s Parliament Appoints Sahle-Work Zewde as New President

Ethiopia’s parliament today approved Sahle-Work Zewde as the country’s new president, the first woman to hold the post.

Sahle-Work, who was born 21 February, 1950, in Addis Ababa, is at present U.N. 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. Wirtu had been president since 2013.

Fitsum Arega, Chief of staff to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed described the appointment of Sahle-Work as historic.

In a tweet today, Arega said: “In a historic move, the two Houses have elected Ambassador Sahle-Work Zewde as the next President of Ethiopia.

“She is the first female head of state in modern Ethiopia. A career diplomat & senior official at the UN. She brings the right competence & experience to the office.

“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 normalises women as decision-makers in public life”.

Woyzero Sahle-Work Zewde studied natural science at the University of Montpellier, France. She is fluent in Amharic, French and English.

She is a veteran Ethiopian diplomat. She was once Ambassador to Senegal, with accreditation to Mali, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Guinea, from 1989 to 1993.

From 1993 to 2002, she was Ambassador to Djibouti and Permanent Representative to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

She later served as Ambassador to France, Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and accredited to Tunisia and Morocco from 2002 to 2006.

Zewde served as Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Integrated Peace Building Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA). Previously, she also held a number of other high level positions including as Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and as Director-General for African Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia.

In 2011, Zewde was appointed to the position of Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi (UNON) by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. She was the first person to hold the post at the level of Under-Secretary-General.

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