Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn was elected by African heads of state as chairman of the African Union today, replacing Benin’s President Yayi Boni.
The 47-year-old Hailemariam, who became leader of Ethiopia after the death from illness of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in August, will serve a one-year term as head of the African Union, or AU.
The 54-member continental bloc’s assembly is meeting in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. The AU faces several security challenges on the continent, including rebellions in Mali, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, and continuing tension between South Sudan and Sudan which have failed to implement agreements on borders.
“We should do everything possible to help restore constitutional order in Mali and safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country,” Hailemariam said.
The Addis Ababa-based AU Commission is headed by South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who was elected for a four-year term in July and is the first woman to head the organization’s secretariat.
Hailemariam, a former foreign minister and deputy prime minister, is from the minority Wolayta ethnicity that has historically been excluded from power in Ethiopia by more populous groups. He is also a Protestant in a nation dominated by Orthodox Christians and Muslims.