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Ethiopia’s first female president stresses unity, sustained reform

ADDIS ABABA (Xinhua) -- The newly appointed Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde on Thursday stressed unity among Ethiopians and the need to sustain the ongoing reform in the country.

Zewde, who was elected as the east African country’s first female president following the official resignation of the former President Mulatu Teshome on Thursday, addressed the parliament’s two houses - the Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives (HoPR) and the Ethiopian House of Federation, the lower and upper houses respectively.

Zewde, in her acceptance speech before the two houses, vowed to serve her country and its people with her utmost efforts.

She also stressed the need to maintain the longstanding unity among Ethiopians as well as sustain the ongoing reform of the Ethiopian government and the governance structure.

“The ongoing reform process, which embraces equal representation of women as well as people from different ethnic groups, will lead us to realize a prosperous, developed and united Ethiopia in the near future,” she said.

Zewde, who is a well-regarded diplomat representing Ethiopia at global, continental and regional organizations including the UN and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, had also served as Ethiopia’s ambassador to various countries.

Zewde had also served as Ethiopia’s envoy at the African Union (AU).

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in June 2018 appointed Zewde as his Special Representative to the AU and Head of the UN Office to the African Union at the level of Under-Secretary-General.

The appointment of Zewde, 68, came shortly after the approval of Teshome’s resignation request by the two houses’ joint extraordinary session.

Teshome was unanimously appointed as Ethiopia’s president on Oct. 7, 2013 while he was serving as Ethiopia’s ambassador to Turkey.

Teshome’s resignation, and the eventual appointment of Zewde, followed the recent Ethiopian government’s cabinet reshuffle.

The HoPR last week approved the appointment of 16 new cabinet members upon the endorsement of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, in which only four of the previous cabinet members remained in their positions.

Exercising a parliamentary political system, the Ethiopian president has a ceremonial power, which includes granting amnesty to prisoners, officially opening the annual proceedings of the parliament’s two houses, receiving foreign ambassadors, as well as presenting the country’s annual targets to members of the parliament.

The prime minister is the head of government, in which a political party or coalition with the highest parliamentary seats, at least 51 percent of the active seats at the Ethiopian parliament’s lower house, forms a government.

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