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South Africa's Dlamini-Zuma takes charge as first female head of African Union executive

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October 15, 2012: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma took over as head of the African Union Commission, becoming the first woman at the helm of the pan-African bloc's executive committee.

A female leader on Monday was inaugurated into the top leadership position at the African Union for the first time.

South Africa's Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma took charge of the African Union commission where she will be in charge of peace and security functions and keeping 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.

Outgoing AU chair Jean Ping gave the gavel to Dlamini-Zuma during a ceremony at the union's headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Ping had held the position since 2008.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, who attended the ceremony, wished Dlamini-Zuma good success, but warned that her tasks will be arduous.

In her inaugural address, Dlamini-Zuma pledged to work for "a prosperous, peaceful and integrated Africa." After praising Africa's ancient civilizations, Dlamini-Zuma spoke of Africa's troubled centuries of slavery and colonialism, and then lauded post-colonial economic gains and peaceful transfers of power.

"In spite of this laudable progress, we must also acknowledge that there have been some difficulties and setbacks with pockets of instability and conflict," Dlamini-Zuma said. "It is therefore our responsibility as governments, as citizens, as regional bodies to ensure that the democratic process is irrevocable and to pledge ourselves to work for its success."

Dlamini-Zuma vowed 'to spare no efforts' to try and resolve the conflict in Mali and the Sahel region she said poses a threat to spread.

"Drawing on the lessons learnt from recent conflicts on the continent, we will take appropriate measures to improve cooperation and coordination with the United Nations," said Dlamini-Zuma.