Ethiopia elects its first female president, former United Nations representative Sahle-Work Zewde

  • Sahle-Work Zewde became Ethiopia’s first female president Thursday after being unanimously elected by the country’s lawmakers.
  • Zewde will succeed former President Mulatu Teshome, who resigned from office Wednesday after a Cabinet reshuffling by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
  • Abiy is considered to be a progressive leader in Ethiopia over filling half of the ministerial seats with women, appointing the country’s first female defense minister and freeing several jailed journalists.
  • Abiy’s chief of staff praised Zewde’s election as normalizing “women as decision-makers in public life.”

Sahle-Work Zewde was unanimously elected to be Ethiopia’s first female president Thursday by the African country’s lawmakers, CBS News reports.

Sahle-Work Zewde, who has worked as a diplomat for several United Nations organizations, will take over for Mulatu Teshome, who resigned the presidency Wednesday.

Zewde has served as the UN’s special representative to the African Union since June.

She was also the first director general of the UN office in Nairobi.

Specific details about Teshome’s resignation remain unclear, but many are speculating that it was the results of continued negotiations between the country’s ruling political parties after last week’s political Cabinet reshuffling by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, CNN reported Wednesday.

Teshome took office in 2013, leading the country through several outbreaks of ethnic violence.

Abiy is viewed as a progressive political leader in Ethiopia over filling half of the country’s ministrial seats with women, appointing the country’s first female defense minister and freeing several jailed jounrnalists since taking office last April.

Abiy’s chief of staff Fitsum Arega expressed the prime minister’s support for Zewde’s election.

“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 normalizes women as decision-makers in public life,” Arega said Thursday.