Veteran Ethiopian diplomat Sahle-Work Zewde has been elected by lawmakers as the east African nation’s first female president.
She will succeed Mulatu Teshome, who resigned from the largely ceremonial post on Wednesday. She is limited to two six-year terms in office.
The 68-year-old Sahle-Work is the United Nations’ Special Representative to the African Union. She has previously served Ethiopia as ambassador to France, Senegal and Djibouti, and headed the U.N. office in Nairobi.
Fitsum Arega, the chief of staff for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, hailed Sahle-Work’s election Thursday on Twitter. “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 normalises women as decision-makers in public life,” he wrote.
Ethiopia has undergone a rapid political and cultural transformation since reformist Prime Minister Abiy took office in April. Ten out of 20 members of his new cabinet he appointed last week are women, including the country’s first female defense minister.