Rt Hon Cécile Kyenge, Italy's First Cabinet Minister of African Ancestry Targeted With Bananas at Rally - An Example of Uncivilised

, Condemnable, Disgraceful, Obscene 21st Century Afrophobia, Anti-Africanism and Racism, 28th July 2013, GREAT Trust News

Italy's Integration Minister, Rt Hon Cécile Kyenge.

Some of Italy's top politicians on Saturday rallied behind the country's first Minister of African Ancestry, a target of racist slurs since her appointment in April, after a spectator threw bananas at her while she was making a speech at a political rally.

The Integration Minister, Cécile Kyenge, who is originally from Democratic Republic of Congo, was appearing at a rally in Cervia in Central Italy on Friday, when someone in the audience threw bananas towards the stage, narrowly missing it. Minister Kyenge has faced almost daily racial slurs and threats since joining the government. Earlier this month a senator from the anti-immigration Northern League Party likened her to an orangutan and only apologised after a storm of criticism. Last month, a local Northern League Councillor said Kyenge should be raped so she understands how victims of crimes committed by immigrants feel. The Councillor has received a suspended jail sentence and a temporary ban from public office. Dr Koku Adomdza, President of the GREAT Partnership consisting of the GREAT Trust Group, the Council for Afrika International Group, the Afrika Liberation Society Group and the GREAT Commission for Ethical Peoples Democracy, Inclusive Peace, Stability and Security said that “This is an example of condemnable, uncivilized, condemnable, obscene, 21st Century Afrophobia, anti-Africanism and racism; certainly another sad day for Italian and Global North Democracy, Race Equality and Human Rights. It is yet another flak and ricochet in the face of those institutions and policy makers who take the post-Racism view in denial that racism is less vibrant than other strands of discrimination because that particular battle happens to be the longest standing. The key should be a profound understanding, acknowledgement of the ever- mutating, insidious. Covert and deep-seated nature of the evil of Anti-Africanism and Afrophobia; to enable a commensurate and proportionate policy and operational interventions, paradigms and panaceas to be developed and directed at its elimination. It makes the case for Afrophobia to be acknowledged as a specific form of racism directed at Africans and Persons of African Institution. More poignantly it gives credence to the fact that the integration and 21st Century antiRacism works best not only by appointing Africans and Persons of African Ancestry to positions of high authority, but that such appointments must be coupled with strategic policy reinforcements to protect those appointment from working in hostile environments. “There is a lacking of creative and innovative approaches to expedite the total demise of Afrophobia and Anti-Africanism as forms of racial discrimination and the key sponsors and actors of the struggle against Racial Discrimination and Human Rights must wake up from their slumber and support agencies that promote un-orthodox, efficient, effective alternatives to the outmoded mainstream solutions that continue to prove increasingly inadequate in the 21st Century. Given the high profile nature of the targeted Afrophobia against Minister Cecile Kyenge, one would expect the African Union,

the EU Commissioner for Human Rights, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the African Caucus within the UN, Africa’s Diplomatic Corps in the Diaspora and Africa’s 54 Heads of State to speak out against these obscene targeted acts of bigotry. There are many Africans and Persons of African Ancestry in the Diaspora who experience various forms of racism, Afrophobia and anti-Africanism but feel powerless within the institutions that they work in. It is not only in politics but other spheres of society including sports e.g. the anti-African, Afrophobic and racist abuses targeted at Mario Balotelli and Prince Kevin Boateng in Italian football, to mention a few. It is time for new approaches and fresh momentum to confront Anti-Africanism and Afrophobia once and for all.” Shortly before Friday's incident, members of the far-right Forza Nuova Group left mannequins covered in fake blood near the site of the Democratic Party rally in protest against Kyenge's proposal to make anyone born on Italian soil a citizen. "Immigration kills," was written on leaflets accompanying the dummies – a slogan Forza Nuova has previously used when referring to murders committed by immigrants in Italy. But the group denied that one of its members had thrown the bananas. Police are trying to identify the culprit. Kyenge responded to the gesture on Twitter, calling it "sad" and a waste of food. "The courage and optimism to change things has to come above all from the bottom up to reach the institutions," she said. Several politicians, including her peers in Prime Minister Enrico Letta's Government, responded with messages of support and condemnation on Saturday. Environment Minister Andrea Orlando said on Twitter he felt "utmost indignation for this lowly act", while the Education Minister, Maria Chiara Carrozza, praised Kyenge for her courage and determination in such a hostile climate. Veneto Region Governor Luca Zaia from the Northern League, who is due to take part in an immigration debate with Kyenge in August, also spoke out against the incident on Saturday. "Throwing bananas, personal insults ... acts like these play no part in the civilised and democratic discussion needed between the Minister and those who don't share her opinion," the ANSA news agency quoted him as saying.

Analysis – The Dynamics of Institutional Afrophobia, antiAfricanism and Racism in Multicultural Italy

Rt Hon Cécile Kyenge, the Italian Minister for Iintegration whose inclusion to the Italian Cabinet led to an avalanche of Afrophobia and anti-Africanism across various spectra of 21st Century Italian Society.

"I love animals, but when I see her, I can't help but think of an orangutan". These words were uttered by the Italian politician Roberto Calderoli in reference to Cécile Kyenge, Italy's African Minister of Integration, at a recent festival organised by his party, the Northern League. Ms Cecile Kyenge was appointed to the cabinet in April, and Calderoli added that "maybe Kyenge should be a minister in her own country [sic] … she is only encouraging illegal immigrants to dream of success". Calderoli's is the latest in a long line of revolting racist comments from politicians and others from right across the political spectrum. Incredibly, Calderoli himself claimed that what he had said was a "little joke" and that it was "not racist". What is going on here? Why has Cecile Kyenge's inclusion in the Italian cabinet led to such an outpouring of Afrophobia and anti-Africanism?

In the 1980s, immigrants were few and far between in Italy. Things changed in the 1990s and 2000s as more than 4 million foreigners arrived to work largely, at first, in the "dirty" sector of a booming economy. Italy's ageing population and increasing wealth led to huge demand for cleaners, home helpers and ordinary workers – all jobs Italians were no longer willing to do in large numbers. These immigrants were excluded from the political system, and restrictive citizenship laws made it very difficult for the second and third generation (the so called Balotelli generation) to gain any rights at all. Even those born in Italy had to wait until their 18th birthday before being allowed to become officially Italian. This was also the context in which the Lega Nord (Northern League) rose to power and prominence. Ms Cecile Kyenge arrived in Italy in 1983, and is a qualified Ophthalmologist. She married an Italian man in 1994 and her two daughters were born and have grown up in Italy. She is African and Italian i,e. an African-Italian and has promised to try to reform Italy's Citizenship Laws, a change the Italian centre-right violently opposes. The Lega Nord began as a party that concentrated on an antipolitical and anti-Southern-Italy stance, with its heartlands in the provinces of Northern Italy. Its politicians took power in a number of Northern cities (including Milan) in the 1990s, and in alliance with Silvio Berlusconi they rose to national power. Calderoli himself has been a Minister, and was vice-president of the Senate, one of the most important institutional positions in the Italian political system. Lega Nord has always been an anti-African, Afrophobic and racist party, fanning the flames of ethnic and religious conflict whenever it has been able to. You could compile an encyclopedia of the League's anti-African, Afrophobic and racist comments and activities. There was, for example, the Mayor of a major Italian city who argued that immigrants should be dressed as animals and hunted down, or the League politician who recently claimed to be happy on hearing of the death of immigrants trying to arrive by sea. This negative, bigoted, far-right-extremism has been going on for more than 20 years. The Lega Nord's founder and former leader, Umberto Bossi, referred to somewhere called "Bongo Bongo land". Anti-Africanism, Afrophobia and racism has been official government policy, handed down from above, tolerated at all levels, including by the Italian left (who were in an unholy alliance with the League for a time). One of the problems is that there is disagreement over what racism actually is and the lack of acknowledgement by and large of specific racial discrimination against Africans and Persons of African Ancestry i.e. Afrophobia and anti-Africanism. Calderoli

thinks that comparing an African-Italian woman to an orangutan is a "little joke", or even a "funny joke". When Mario Balotelli was depicted as King Kong in a cartoon, many people saw no problem at all with it. Besides the rhetoric about freedoms, civil liberties, racial equality and human rights, there is hardly a sea change in the Italian collective national consciousness. Debates are starting to alter the extremities, vulgarities and obscenities of anti-African, Afrophobic and racist language used. For a long time, even mainstream quality newspapers frrely applied anti-African, Afrophobic, racist language to stereotype immigrants. It took years for the Corriere della Sera to stop using the term vu cumprà to stereotype foreign workers as street traders who could not speak Italian properly. Interestingly, the majority of anti-African, Afrophobic and racist campaigners themselves are foreign-language illiterate. Individual acts, such as that of the footballer Kevin Prince Boateng who walked off the field in the face of disgusting racist chants (surprise, surprise: one of the chanters turned out to be a Lega militant), have led to further discussion. But progress is painfully slow, and the exclusion of immigrants from the political system and from any sense of power makes them vulnerable to attack and exploitation. Italy is a country where racism is tolerated and where a person like Calderoli has held institutional power and has the courage to speak for many who are as bigotted and ignorant like him. With renewed, concerted mobilisation and interventions by a Coalition of antiAfrophobic Forces for Good, the future is with the Italy of Balotelli and Kyenge. Italy is a multicultural country threatened by institutional Afrophobia and anti-Africanism unless a SUITE OF FITF0R-PURPOSE, SOPHISTICATED, PROPORTIONATE, INFORMED, APPROPRIATE ACTIONS BEYOND LIPSERVICE are taken.

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