Cécile Kashetu Kyenge (born Kashetu Kyenge 28 August 1964) is an Italian politician and ophthalmologist. She was the Minister for Integration in the 2013–14 Letta Cabinet. On 25 May 2014 she was elected as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP).
After moving to Italy in 1983, she became a qualified ophthalmologist in Modena, Emilia-Romagna. She has founded an intercultural Association (DAWA) to promote mutual awareness, integration and cooperation between Italy and Africa, particularly in her country of birth, the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is also the spokesperson of the association “March First”, which works to promote the rights of migrants in Italy.
In February 2013 she was elected member of the Chamber of Deputies for the Democratic Party in Emilia-Romagna. Two months later she was appointed Minister for Integration in the grand coalition government formed by Enrico Letta, becoming Italy’s first black cabinet minister. She supports the introduction of a Jus soli law to grant citizenship to children of immigrants born on Italian soil.
Kyenge was born in Kambove (Haut-Katanga District) in the Democratic Republic of Congo on 28 August 1964. She arrived in Italy with a student visa in 1983. She has been married since 1994 with an Italian engineer, Domenico Grisino, and has two daughters named Giulia and Maisha. She lives in Castelfranco Emilia. She has a degree in medicine and surgery from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome . She is a specialist in ophthalmology at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.
On 25 February 2013 she was elected member of the Chamber of Deputies for the PD in Emilia-Romagna.
Immediately after her election to the Italian Parliament, with the support of other signatories (Pier Luigi Bersani, Khalid Chaouki and Roberto Speranza), she began to promote a plan for a law granting citizenship to children of immigrants born on Italian soil (a so-called Ius soli law).
In April 2013 Kyenge was appointed Minister for Integration in the grand coalition government formed by Enrico Letta, becoming Italy’s first black cabinet minister. Her ministerial nomination was repudiated in some circles on cultural and/or racial grounds, being met by racist insults from individual politicians belonging to the Northern League such as Roberto Calderoli, VP of the Italian Senate, who called her an orangutan, in addition to racist campaigns orchestrated by the New Force party and other far-right groups. Her treatment as Italy’s first black minister has been described by The Economist as “shameful” with “limited condemnation”.
Kyenge was elected to the European Parliament in the elections of 2014 as a candidate for the Democratic Party from the constituency of North-East Italy.