Ethiopia's new leader takes oath of office

By AFP
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By AFP

9/21/2012 9:20:02 AM -

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) - Ethiopian new Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn took the oath of office Friday, taking over power after the death of long-time ruler Meles Zenawi.

"I, Hailemariam Desalegn, in front of the parliament, accept to be the prime minister of Ethiopia," he said, as lawmakers banged on their desks in support.

Hailemariam, 47, was elected last week as the chairman of the ruling coalition Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which holds an overwhelming majority in parliament.

"With the decision of the EPRDF and the parliament, I am very happy to take the responsibility of being prime minister," he said, speaking after taking the oath with his hand on the bible.

A close ally of Meles as deputy prime minister and foreign minister since 2010, Hailemariam vowed to continue in the footsteps of the late ruler.

"We brought peace, democracy and development to the country," he said.

"Meles considered himself as a son of the people," he added, vowing to continue "Meles's legacy without any change."

Hailemariam comes from the minority Wolayta people, from the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region, where he was president for five years.

Meles, who died after a long illness aged 57, was hailed as an African hero and was a key Western ally in a region home to Al-Qaeda-linked groups, but was also criticised by rights groups for a crackdown on basic freedoms.

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