Ethiopia’s new supreme court president adds to growing women officials

Ethiopia gets its first female supreme court president, a week after naming first female president

  •  Meaza Ashenafi has served as an adviser on women’s rights
  • The move comes after country appoints Sahle-Work Zewde to state president
  • Ten ministers out of 20 in cabinet are female 

Ethiopia’s new supreme court president Meaza Ashenafi

Ethiopia’s parliament today swore in the country’s first female supreme court president, adding to the 10 women ministers and state president. 

New supreme court president, prominent rights campaigner Meaza Ashenafi, recently served as an adviser on women’s rights at the Addis Ababa-based United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Her appointment comes two weeks after reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed made Ethiopia the third country in Africa – after Rwanda and Seychelles – to have its cabinet split equally between men and women. 

The ministers include defence minister Aisha Mohammed and Muferiat Kamil who leads the newly-created Ministry of Peace, responsible for police and domestic intelligence agencies.

Naming Ms Ashenafi as his pick to head the Supreme Court, Mr Abiy told MPs the court system needed improved capacities ‘to successfully implement demands made with regards to justice, democracy and change in our country.

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‘I have made the nomination with the firm belief that she has the capacity required, with her vast international experience in mind.’

Parliament unanimously approved Mr Abiy’s choice.

Under Ethiopia’s constitution, the court system operates independently of government.

Last week, the Horn of Africa country named Sahle-Work Zewde to the largely ceremonial post of president, also the first woman to hold that post.

In a unanimous vote, Ethiopian lawmakers picked career diplomat Sahle-Work Zewde, 68, to replace Mulatu Teshome who resigned in unclear circumstances.

Since his appointment in April, Mr Abiy has presided over a series of reforms that have included the pardoning of dissidents long outlawed by the government and diplomatic overtures to long-term enemy Eritrea.   

Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde with reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Mr Abiy is seeking to ensure greater gender equality in the country and has already appointed 10 women to his 20-minister cabinet

‘If the current change in Ethiopia is headed equally by both men and women, it can sustain its momentum and realise a prosperous Ethiopia free of religious, ethnic and gender discrimination,’ Ms Sahle-Work said.

Ms Sahle-Work, who was born Addis Ababa and attended university in France, has been Ethiopia’s ambassador to France, Djibouti, Senegal and the regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

Just prior to her appointment as president she was the UN’s top official at the African Union. She is fluent in English and French as well as Amharic, Ethiopia’s main language.

As president she is expected to serve two six-year terms.

‘Mulatu has shown us the way for change and hope, he has shown life continues before and after leaving power. I call on others to heed his example and be ready for change,’ said Ms Sahle-Work in a speech to parliament.

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