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Ethiopia Appoints Former Diplomat to Become Its First Female President

Ethiopia makes history in gender representation.

Duane Paul Murphy

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Ethiopia has appointed a former diplomat to become its first female president.

68-year old Sahle-Work Zewde was unanimously confirmed by the country’s parliament in the capital city of Addis Ababa on Thursday, October 25 and is currently Africa’s only female head of state. Before Zewde’s presidency, previous female heads of state and or government throughout the continent of Africa have included Elisabeth Domitien and Catherine Samba-Panza in the Central African Republic, Monique Ohsan Bellepeau and Ameenah Gurib in Mauritius, Aminata Touré in Senegal, Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé in Mali, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia.

Zewde was also the country’s ambassador to France, Senegal, and Djibouti as well as the first woman to become the U.N. special representative to the African Union and the head of the U.N. Office to the African Union.

While the role of president in Ethiopia is mostly ceremonial, the powers of the president include appointing ambassadors, receiving foreign envoys from around the world, and granting pardons to convicted criminals.
Zewde’s appointment comes weeks after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appointed women to half of his government’s cabinet, including ministers of peace and defense. Ahmed is seen as a reformist within the country’s dominant party system and federal republic, which has been under the rule of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front since the 1980s.
Zewde said in her address to the country that she wants to promote ethnic, gender, and racial equality nationwide. The Ethiopian presidency is term-limited to six years and is renewable once.

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Duane Paul Murphy is a D.C. college student and student journalist born and raised in Southern California. Currently studying for his bachelor’s in politics and a minor in media studies, Duane Paul is interested in covering domestic as well as international political affairs that impact the lives of everyday people, whether they are young students, professionals, or faculty in higher education.

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