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Congolese-Italian Woman Joins Italy's Cabinet

[All quotations are translated from the original French articles, except the Twitter quotes, which were originally Italian]

Two months after the February 2013 Italian general election, Prime Minister Enrico Letta, selected by the President Giorgio Napolitano to create a consensus government, revealed the members of his team. Among the surprises was the nomination of Doctor Cecile Kyenge, specialist in Opthamology, as Minister of Integration. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), she is the first immigrant ever to accede to a ministerial position in Italy.

News website oeildafrique.com described her [fr] as follows:

Cecile Kyenge, member of the Democratic Party, was born on August 28, 1964 in Kambove in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
She arrived in Italy in 1983 and is now an Italian citizen. She obtained her degree in medicine and surgery at the Catholic University of Rome, before specialising in opthamology at the University of Modena.

Cecile Kyenge, photo from her Facebook page

Dr Cecile Kyenge, photo from her Facebook page

Although elected into the left wing Democratic Party during the recent elections, in the region of Emilia-Romagna, she had already become the first woman of African origin to win a seat in parliament, when she was elected provincial councillor in Modena for the Democratic Party. In an article published on afrokanlife.com [fr], Rene Kouame wrote:

The honorable Cecile Kyenge is not taking her first steps in the political life of Italy. She has been a councillor since the last legislature of the Emilia Romagna regional council. At the heart of the Italian Democratic Party she occupied the role of responsibility for the immigration forum for several years. As a human rights supporter, Cecile Kyenge has fought for several years to gain respect for the rights of immigrants in Italy. She is spokesperson of the national movement March First (a national organisation fighting against any kind of discrimination and for respect for the rights of immigrants).

The following video [it] shows Cecile Kyenge swearing in before President G. Napolitano at the Quirinal Palace in Rome:

She has fought for many years for better immigration laws, notably for repeal of the crime of illegal immigration which has filled Italian prisons with people whose only crime, for the most part, is to not have identity papers. News website auxinfosdunain.blogspot.fr covered her journey [fr]:

Minister of the Democratic Party, the first woman of African origin to win a seat in parliament was in the middle of preparing a file on ‘institutional racism’ in Italy. She was also fighting for repealing the crime of illegal immigration and wants to make the job market more accessible to foreigners.
According to Cecile Kyenge, it is also necessary to ‘fight against violence of a sexist, racist, homophobic, or any other, nature.’ Mr Letta, who also belongs to the Democratic Party, exulted in this choice which ‘clearly demonstrates belief in a more integrated, truly multicultural Italy.’

Blog jolpress.com said this [fr] about her:

She owes her position as a M.P. to her engagement at the heart of the Democratic Party in the Emilia-Romagna region. In particular, she looked after immigration questions – the portfolio that she will be in charge of at the heart of the new government.
At the heart of her political, associative and militant combat lies the free circulation of people and the desire for a new citizenship law. What is more, in September 2010, she became national spokesperson for the March First movement where she promoted human rights, including those for migrants.

Before the elections Cecile Kyenge defined her combat objectives [fr] in an article published on blog starducongo.com:

My candidacy represents and gives a voice to the ‘New Italians’ (term designating foreigners who become Italian), these foreigners who only ask to become a citizen. As a minister of the republic, my voice must also defend the community of Italian citizens, because I believe intermixing can and must be an added value in our culture and not an obstacle like some would have us believe for so long.

Of course, as soon as the composition of the government was published, right wing extremists and xenophobes unleashed themselves to denounce her presence among the other ministers. @adilmauro cited Roberto Maroni, ex-Minister of the Interior and leader of the Northern League, on Twitter:

@adilmauro: Cecile Kyenge is not Italian, say those who want to make Italy change. Here we have the League who ‘march on racism’ (said Maroni)

Journalist Enrico Grazioli (@engraz), also on Twitter, commented on the racist reactions :

@engraz: Cecile #kyenge has ‘already been welcomed by the worst of Italy as we should have expected. But she will not be afraid http://t.co/96IdxqSHGV #governoletta

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