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South Africa’s Dlamini-Zuma is first female chief of African Union

New African Union chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma shook hands with delegates in Addis Ababa.

Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

New African Union chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma shook hands with delegates in Addis Ababa.

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — A woman has been inaugurated into the top leadership position at the African Union for the first time.

South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma took charge Monday of the African Union commission, where she will oversee peace and security functions and keep track of the political and economic affairs of the continent. Dlamini-Zuma was most recently South Africa’s minister of home affairs and also served as the country’s minister of foreign affairs.

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Outgoing African Union chairman Jean Ping gave the gavel to Dlamini-Zuma during a ceremony at the union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa.

In her inaugural address, Dlamini-Zuma pledged to work for ‘‘a prosperous, peaceful, and integrated Africa.’’

She spoke of the continent’s troubled centuries of slavery and colonialism, and then lauded postcolonial economic gains and peaceful transfers of power. She also vowed “to spare no efforts” to try to resolve the conflict in Mali and the Sahel region that she said poses a threat to spread.

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