NAIROBI — Ethiopia’s parliament has voted in its first female president, and even though the position is considered a ceremonial one, people are excited about it.
Sahle-Work Zewde, who becomes the only woman head of state in Africa, currently serves as the under-secretary-general of the UN (the third-highest rank at the UN). She’s also the special representative to the secretary general of the African Union, and in June topped off her CV by becoming the head of the UN Office to the African Union.
She replaces former Ethiopian president Mulatu Teshome, who abruptly resigned from his post on Wednesday.
Sahle-Work, 68, has also previously worked as the Ethiopian ambassador to Senegal, France, and Djibouti.
Africans on Twitter have been cheering Sahle-Work’s newest position.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta congratulated Sahle-Work, saying that he is “elated for Zewde on her election earlier today to the position of President of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia. It is a historic moment for the people of Ethiopia, Africa and indeed the whole world.”
Addressing the nation shortly after her appointment, Sahle-Work declared that her primary focus as president would be on peace-building and gender equality.
“Government and opposition parties have to understand we are living in a common house and focus on things that unite us, not what divides us, to create a country and generation that will make all of us proud,” she said.
Her designation comes a couple of weeks after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed — whose seven months in office have so far been characterized by sweeping reforms — appointed a new cabinet in which half of the ministers were women.
Stressing the importance of gender parity leading to good governance, Sahle-Work said that if “the current change in Ethiopia is headed equally by both men and women, it can sustain its momentum and realize a prosperous Ethiopia free of religious, ethnic and gender discrimination.”