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Ethiopia’s first female president stresses unity, sustained reform

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The newly appointed Ethiopia’ s President Sahle- Work Zewde on Thursday stressed unity among Ethiopians and the need to sustain the ongoing reform in the country .Zewde was elected as the east African country ’ s first female president following the official resignation of the former President Mulatu Teshome on Thursday .

She stated this while addressing the two parliament houses – the Ethiopian House of People ’ s Representatives and the Ethiopian House of Federation , the lower and upper houses respectively .

The president , in her acceptance speech before the two houses , vowed to serve her country and its people with her utmost efforts .

She also stressed the need to maintain the longstanding unity among Ethiopians as well as sustain the ongoing reform of the Ethiopian government and the governance structure .

She added that “ the ongoing reform process , which embraces equal representation of women as well as people from different ethnic groups , will lead us to realise a prosperous , developed and united Ethiopia in the near future . ”

Zewde , who is a well – regarded diplomat representing Ethiopia at global , continental and regional organisations including the UN and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development , had also served as Ethiopia’ s ambassador to various countries .

She had also served as Ethiopia’ s envoy at the AU .

UN Secretary – General , Antonio Guterres in June 2018 appointed Zewde as his Special Representative to the AU and Head of the UN Office to the AU at the level of Under -Secretary – General .

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The appointment of Zewde , 68 , came shortly after the approval of Teshome ’ s resignation request by the two houses ’ joint extraordinary session .

Teshome was unanimously appointed as Ethiopia’ s president on Oct . 7 , 2013 while he was serving as Ethiopia’ s ambassador to Turkey .

Teshome ’ s resignation , and the eventual appointment of Zewde , followed the recent Ethiopian government ’ s cabinet reshuffle .

The HoPR last week approved the appointment of 16 new cabinet members upon the endorsement of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed , in which only four of the previous cabinet members remained in their positions .

Exercising a parliamentary political system , the Ethiopian president has a ceremonial power , which includes granting amnesty to prisoners , officially opening the annual proceedings of the parliament ’ s two houses , receiving foreign ambassadors , as well as presenting the country ’ s annual targets to members of the parliament .

The prime minister is the head of government, in which a political party or coalition with the highest parliamentary seats , at least 51 per cent of the active seats at the Ethiopian parliament ’ s lower house , forms a government.

Similarly , Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday congratulated Sahle -Work Zewde on her election as the first female president of Ethiopia.

Kenyatta said the election of Zewde , who was Director – General of the UN Office at Nairobi ( UNON ) is a resounding demonstration of the changing fortunes for the indefatigable and distinguished women of Africa .

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“ I am elated for Hon . Sahle- Work 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 , ” he said in a statement issued in Nairobi .

Under Ethiopia’ s constitution , the president is the head of state , but the office ’ s powers are ceremonial and include opening Parliament , appointing ambassadors following the Prime Minister ’ s recommendation and receiving the credentials of foreign envoys .

Zewde , a career diplomat and international civil servant , joins the expanding league of distinguished African women to occupy the apex office on the continent with former presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Joyce Banda of Malawi .

The 68 – year – old Zewde has promised to work hard to make gender equality a reality in the East Africa nation, calling on citizens to maintain peace .

Kenyatta recalled that when the Ethiopian diplomat served in Nairobi as the director general of UNON , they held several fruitful consultative meetings and developed a great working relationship .

“ It is this relationship that I look forward to strengthening as we work together for the mutual benefit of our two countries . ” said Kenyatta .

( Xinhua/ NAN )

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