Italy’s first-ever black minister was immediately at the centre of a virulent controversy as her appointment was deplored by the rightwing Northern League. Cecile Kyenge, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, takes on a new portfolio for racial integration. She is one of two naturalised Italians in the government, both elected for the centre-left Democratic party (PD). The other is a former international canoeist, Josefa Idem. The inclusion in the cabinet of blonde, German-born Idem, who won an Olympic gold medal and five world championships for Italy, caused no similar controversy.
Matteo Salvini, secretary of the League in Lombardy, called the 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.
In a discussion of their election on Facebook, the Northern League secretary in her home town wrote: “We ought to do like the Japanese kamikaze [in] the second world war: before the ultimate gesture, kill at least 20 of them.” The Northern League denies it is xenophobic, insisting it is only opposed to illegal immigration. Kyenge came to Italy to study at university and married an Italian.
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