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Sahle-Work Zewde elected Ethiopia’s first female president

Ethiopia last week elected its first female president, Sahle-Work Zewde, who is currently the only female head of state in Africa. Her appointment follows the resignation of Mulatu Teshome Wirtu on October 25. 

She is the fourth president under EPRDF rule which claimed power in Ethiopia in 1991, following a coup against the military regime.

She has a long service in government having served as ambassador in many countries across Africa and Europe as well working with the UN peace-building efforts in the Central African Republic.

During the civil war many ministers and civil servants were purged or arrested, and many diplomats serving abroad sought political asylum in the countries they were residing in. Zewde continued her role and work within the regime. 

In a tweet her chief of staff, Fitsum Arega, spoke to this landmark moment stating:

“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.”

Historically, whilst Ethiopia has not had a female president before, it has had a female empress, Empress Zewditu, whose reign lasted between 1916-1930. She was the first female head of internationally recognised state in Africa during the 19th and 20th centuries and the first Empress of the Ethiopian Empire. The empire and monarchy were formally abolished in 1974-1975.

Earlier this month the prime minister, Abiy Ahmed stated he will fill 50 percent of his cabinet with female ministers.