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Another woman at the helm

Another woman at the helm

Taking the nation in a sweeping fashion, the nomination and election of women to key posts reached the Federal Supreme Court with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) nominating Meaza Ashenafi – the renowned legal expert and human rights activist – as its first ever female president to preside over the court. The House of People’s Representatives approved the nominee making her the Federal Supreme Court’s first ever female president in the country’s history.

Upon returning home from his trip to France and Germany, PM Abiy presented his nomination along with their biographies before the House. The PM told MPs that the justice sector has been operating in an unjust way, compromised by bribery leading to the public languish with the lack of justice.  

During the 4th regular session of the House, MPs welcomed the selection of the PM describing her as “the right person equipped with a convincing educational background and experience in the sector.”

The newly appointed President, Meaza – 54 – has replaced Dagne Melaku.

Furthermore, the House approved the second nominee of the PM – Solomon Areda – in the same session for the Vice President’s role replacing the outgoing Tsegaye Asmamaw.

According to Abiy, both Dagne and Tsegaye have tendered their resignation with their own consent to facilitate ways for other individuals who could bring a better leadership in line with the ongoing comprehensive reforms.

Both were appointed in 2015 during former Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn’s administration.

Explaining why he named Meaza to head the Supreme Court, Abiy told the house that “the court system and the justice sector broadly needs to be improved with capacities to successfully implement demands made with regards to the existing justice, democracy and change in the country.”

“I have made the nomination with a firm belief that she has the capacity required, and a vast international experience,” the premier said.

Born in Assosa town, some 640km west of Addis Ababa, Meaza has been a human rights advocate whose passion for equality and activism has propelled her into the global spotlight. She is the founder and the first executive director of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA), and led efforts to create the first women's bank in Ethiopia, Enat Bank, which opened its doors in 2011. She had also chaired its board of directors.

In addition to these, she has been active in legal reform efforts, public education and information about the rights of women and girls.

Furthermore, in the past few years, she has been involved in the works of the African Center for Gender and Social Development of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa; assisting in setting up the African Women’s Rights Observatory, and in designing and implementing a multifaceted program of activities. Until her appointment, she has been serving as UNECA top gender adviser and Women’s Rights, Capacity Development Division post while she also continued to provide pro bono legal services.

Similarly, Solomon whose nomination for the Vice President’s post was unanimously endorsed by MPs because of the wealth of experience he has acquired in the justice sector.

According to his profile read before the House, Solomon received his first degree from Addis Ababa University in Law (LLB); furthering his education abroad with three Masters Degrees including one in Economics Law from Harvard University graduating summa cum laude.

He has served as a Federal High Court Judge locally and globally, he served as a member judge in the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), an intergovernmental organization located at The Hague in the Netherlands.

As stipulated in the constitutional provision, article 80, the president is responsible for activities and responsibilities vested on the Federal Supreme court that has the highest and final power of Jurisdiction over federal matters.

In addition, the President and vice-President of Federal Supreme Court shall also serve respectively as the President and vice president of the Councils of Constitutional Inquiry.

The Councils of Constitutional Inquiry is an eleven-member council which is responsible for investigating constitutional disputes.