Career diplomat by profession, Sahle-Work Zewde is sworn in today as the next president of Ethiopia.
The second special joint session of House of People’s Representative and House of Federation unanimously elected United Nations representative to the African Union, Sahle-Wok Zewde, as Ethiopia’s first female president today. Currently she is in fact the only female president in the continent.
News of her nomination to replace president Mulatu Teshome, who resigned letter in the Ethiopian Parliament, emerged yesterday from sources close to the government.
Given her competence and qualifications, many Ethiopians seem to be of the view that she is overqualified to the position as it is mostly ceremonial for the prime ministerial system of government in the country gives almost al the power to the prime minister. There has been a rumor about reforming the power of the president, which will require constitutional re-arrangement, but it is not certain if it is happening any time soon.
Sahle-Work Zewde was a carrier diplomat and has served as Ethiopia’s Ambassador to Tunisia, Morocco, Senegal, Mali, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissaw, Gambia, Guinea and Djibouti. In Europe, she served as Ethiopia’s ambassador to France.
“I feel a great honour that I am elected to serve my country and its people,” she said in her first speech in the parliament.
The role, status and contribution of women in Ethiopian society and peace dominated her speech.
She likened women to family, family to a country and women to a country – apparently as part of her effort to emphasize the important role of women in Ethiopian society. “Women are pillars of a family. When women hurt, family hurt. More than everything else, the future generation will hurt,” She added.
Noting the circumstances under which women are striving in all walks of life in the country, she advised Ethiopian women to maintain perseverance.
Building a generation that will not accept violence against women is one of the key components of her speech.
The situation in the country seem to be of a great concert to Ethiopia’s new president. But she hopes to see ” Ethiopia free from discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnic and religion.”
Although Ethiopia made news headlines the world over in the past seven months in connection with “transition to democracy,” all is not well in the country primarily because of radical ethno-nationalism mostly in Oromo region of Ethiopia where there seem to be a dual government structure has complicated the business of fighting anarchy. For example, in Harar region, south Eastern Ethiopia, a Qeerroo structure, a de Facto radicalizing ethnic-Oromo youth movement, shutdown water to the city of Harar leaving people in the great city of Harar without water for well over a week (as reported by Sheger) and government (both at the Federal and regional levels of government ) seem to unable ( or unwilling due to the political cost) to do anything about it.
It is no wonder that the new president is also emphasizing peace in her speech. “There is no option or shortcut to peace to build a big country,” she said calling Ethiopians to work together to for peace.
Mulatu Teshome raised the dangers that ethnic politics is posing to the country in his farewell speech in the parliament, too. “Ethiopians need to stop looking at political and economic phenomena in the country through ethnic lens.”
We need to remember that the reason we want to focus on our national unity, while recognizing diversity, is because it is a guarantee for our prosperity and revival, he told parliamentarians.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reshuffled his entire cabinet just two weeks ago which turned out to be unprecedented gender balance cabinet in the history of the continent, not just Ethiopia, but resolve to fight anarchy is yet to be seen.
On October 18, 2018, Abiy told the Ethiopian Parliament that the intention of abrupt military march to his office, which is in the palace, was to kill him.
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