Cécile Kyenge, the first Afro-Italian minister in the history of the Country

Published Date:   Saturday, Oct 19, 2013

The Italian Government has finally been installed obtaining the vote of confidence from  the new Parliament on April, 29th. This vote was attained  after almost two months of political inactivity, following a harsh political campaign that split the Parliament into three parts, with a substantial parity among 'Movimento 5 stelle - M5S' ( 5 stars Movement, led by Beppe Grillo, who gained an unforeseen  consensus in his first electoral campaign), the right wing ('Popolo della Libertà - PDL', led by the tycoon Silvio Berlusconi) and the left one, a coalition between PD - the democrats - and SEL,of communist inspiration, who won the elections by the narrowest margin.  Scelta Civica, the party of the outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti and a sprinkling of quarrelsome nationalistic factions making up the rest.

Because of a severe internal crisis of the Democrats, the new government was launched under the warranty of Giorgio Napolitano, 88, re-elected at the Quirinal despite his age and the Constitutional practice, being the first President of the Italian Republic appointed for a second mandate. Because of the pressing economical measures that had to be undertaken to save the country and the impelling need of  reaching a compromise with the European Union, President Napolitano supported a broad based governance between the hitherto incompatible PD, PDL and Monti's Scelta Civica, thus pushing out the vastly represented M5S to the opposition benches, alongside the extreme wings (SEL on the Left, Fratelli d'Italia - FDI on the Right and the Lega (League) a chauvinist  separatist party).

This is the frame in which Cécile Kyenge took her function as Minister of  Integration: she is the first foreign born citizen to be appointed Minister of the Italian  Republic.

An ophthalmologist, born in Kambove, Congo, in 1964, she has  lived in Italy for almost thirty years. She's married to an Italian, and lives in the center-north of Italy, in Emilia-Romagna. She is the national spokeswoman of the network "1 Marzo" (March, 1st), involved in the issue of Migrants' rights and coordinator for Northern Italy in the project "Diaspora Africana" (African Diaspora), involved in the promotion of full citizenship rights for the migrants.

Her political activity started in 2004: she was elected in the municipality of Modena with the Democrats, and obtained the provincial-level responsibility of the forum for International Cooperation and immigration.

In 2009 she was elected councillor in the district of Modena, and in the meantime she became  responsible for the immigration policies of PD at regional-level.

After the  elections, last February , she was elected deputy of the Italian Republic, and promptly submitted a  draft for a Parliamentary Bill (signed with Pierluigi Bersani, Khalid Chaouki and Roberto Speranza)  about the rights of citizenship  for immigrant children  born on Italian soil, the "ius solis" of the Roman law.

She was appointed Minister of the Italian Republic on April 28th, 2013.

The neo-minister gathered a general approval in both the wings of the Parliament, with the predictable exception of the racist League and a powdering of minor right wing forces who are against every integration policy in Italy, and tend to maintain the current strict legislation on immigration.

In a very popular radio broadcast, "Un Giorno da Pecora" (a sheep's day), Mario Borghezio, a particularly boorish exponent of the League described the Minister, live, as

 "Una scelta del ca**o, ha la faccia da casalinga" (a fu****g choice, she's got the face of a housewife). 

Matteo Salvini, secretary of the same Party in Lombardy, called  48-year-old Kyenge "the symbol of a hypocritical, do-gooding left that would like to abolish the crime of illegal immigration and only thinks about immigrants' rights and not their duties". He said the League was ready to mount "total opposition" to her in Parliament.And that's what they are doing, in the most virulent and offensive way.

The African born football  striker, Mario Balotelli, called her appointment "a further, big step towards a more civilised and responsible Italian society"

The M5S members of Parliament didn't applaud Cécile Kyenge upon her appointment. The Movment's spokeswoman, Roberta Lombardi, said: "We didn't like the fact that Mrs Kyenge was considered as an exception. In our opinion the presence of young people and women in politics should be plain routine. It seemed to us that she was somehow exhibited, so we didn't clap out of respect for her person".

Gad Lerner, a popular democrat journalist and anchorman declared in his blog: 

"It's with great joy that I hail the fellow citizen Cécile Kyenge, new Minister of Integration: at last, the neglected millions of "new Italians" will have a real representation.The loutish clamouring of a few reactionaries isn't worth considering. Now, we shall be able to assess the real effectiveness of a broad based governance, measuring the speed  and the incisiveness of the too long disregarded integration issues, such as the citizenship for the land born, the necessity of expunging the hostile Bossi-Fini law and of removing the shameful identification and Expulsion detention centres. Break a leg, dear Cécile!"

After a violent attacks to the neo-Minister in the galaxy of racist and neo-fascist websites, Laura Boldrini, the Speaker at the Lower House of the Italian Parliament, declared: “It is outrageous, in a civilized country, the amount of insolence addressed against the new Minister Cecile Kyenge. Like most of us, when I saw her taking the oath at the Quirinal, I felt that Italy was stepping ahead in the way of progress, and not only for the "new Italians", but for the whole country, as we understand at last how rich, contemporary and ancient at the same time is the meeting of cultures. A few might not like it, but no uncouth aggression against a person for the colour of her skin is justifiable. Freedom of opinion has nothing to do with this. There are sites stirring up racial hatred, and this is a crime, even if expressed through the web. The witless comments of some political exponents, go far beyond a mere dissent for the political initiatives of Mrs Kyenge. It is unacceptable that such baseness, instigated by a certain press, is allowed to enter the circuit of the political discussion without arousing the abhorrence it deserves. I moreover wish to remind all, that the Bill for citizenship is not upheld by the new Minister alone. With us, standing firmly, is our President Napolitano. Welcome Cècile!"

However, in spite of such coarse judgments, the national debate about immigrants' rights will have to be unearthed, and given a strong political acceleration, after a far too long hibernation of the issue, even if this weird majority will be hard tested on this kind of issues. 

Anadi Mishra, Rome. Email: [email protected]

Note: The views expressed in the article are those of author's

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