In a historic move, Ethiopia’s parliament has unanimously elected Ambassador Sahlework Zewde as the next President of Ethiopia, replacing outgoing president Mulatu Teshome, on Thursday 25 October 2018. She is the first female head of state in modern Ethiopia.
A veteran diplomat, Ms. Sahle-Work brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the presidency. She is currently Under Secretary-General and Special representative of the Secretary-General to the African Union. Ms. Zewde has previously held ambassadorial positions in France, Senegal where she served there from 1989 to 1993 with an accreditation to Mali, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Guinea. From 1993 to 2002, she served as Ethiopia’s Ambassador to Djibouti and Permanent Representative to Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Later on in 2002, she was again assigned to France as an Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) while accredited to Tunisia and Morocco until 2006. From 2006 to 2009, she was the Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to the African Union (AU) and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and Director-General for African Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia. Fluent in Amharic, French and English, Ms. Zewde is a natural sciences graduate of the University of Montpellier, France.
In her acceptance speech, the newly elected President made a strong appeal for peace. “Our dreams of building a great, prosperous Ethiopia cannot be achieved without peace,” she said. “during my tenure, my main focus will center on ensuring peace in the country.”
Ms. Zewde also indicated that she will focus on women’s issues. “There is no country, nor a family, that was built by men only. Women are the pillars of a country, as well as the family. When a woman is hurt, the family is hurt, the country is hurt, most importantly, the next generation that will inherit the country will be hurt.” She stressed on the need to build an inclusive society that rejects all forms of oppression against women.
“If both men and women are equally involved in the current change in Ethiopia, we can realize a prosperous Ethiopia free of gender, ethnic and religious discrimination”, the new President stressed.
Last week, the Prime Minister appointed 10 female ministers, making Ethiopia the third country in Africa, after Rwanda and Seychelles, to achieve gender parity in their cabinets.
Sahle-Work Zewde is the fourth president since the EPRDF coalition came to power.
For her part, the ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe congratulated the new President on her appointment and thanked Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for advancing the role of women in his government.
“..now one country has a female President- Ethiopia. Congratulations to one of the longest serving Ethiopian diplomats who silently broke many records in her domestic and international career. Hard work pays,” she said.

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