Italy gets third black MP

Wed, 04/16/2008 - 03:54

Italy has elected its third black member of parliament, a Congo-born university lecturer and TV immigrant show journalist who is perhaps best known as Rome's public-safety pointman.

Jean Leonard Touadi, 49, was handpicked for the tricky job of security and youth policy chief by former Rome mayor Walter Veltroni, the defeated centre-left candidate in this week's general election.

He was elected to parliament in the Lazio region as second on the list of ex-graftbuster Antonio Di Pietro's Italy of Values party, the ally of Veltroni's Democratic Party (PD).

''I am honoured to take up this task for the country in which I have spent most of my life and where my two children are growing up,'' Touadi said.

''I would like to give back to Italy what it has given me in terms of acceptance.

''I bring into parliament the values of a meeting between cultures and an attention for law and order, cooperation and young people. As well as a piece of Africa, of course''.

Touadi said he would work from the opposition benches to boost integration and improve security for Italians and immigrants so as to ''restrict the space for xenophobic instincts''.

''An Italy which is not afraid of colours is a richer Italy''.

In his five years as Rome security chief Touadi won plaudits for his handling of issues ranging from the policing of a Roma-Manchester United match to street signs for the Chinese community and a Romanian gypsy murder case which led to moves for 'dangerous' immigrants to be deported.

Touadi is the first Italian MP from sub-Saharan Africa.

He was preceded in 2006 by Fouad Allam from Algeria, elected for the centre-left Daisy party, now part of the PD, and Mercedes Frias from Cape Verde, elected for Communist Refoundation.

Touadi came to Italy in 1979 and earned two degrees, one in philosophy from the Vatican's Gregorian University and another in journalism and political science from the private university LUISS.

The Brazzaville-born Touadi went on to front Italy's main TV talk show on immigrant issues, Un Mondo a Colori (A World In Colours).

He doubled the morning show's ratings with lively and personal coverage of immigrant life and Italians' changing views on immigration.

Touadi is a regular guest on popular radio programmes aimed at immigrants.

He has written several books on North-South relations and globalisation including Africa, A Boiling Pot (2003), Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, The Words To Know (2004) and Africa On Track (2006).

Touadi is also a frequent contributor to the prestigious Africa studies Nigrizia.

He currently teaches Culture of French-speaking Countries at Milan University and is a political lecturer at Rome Tor Vergata's philosophy faculty.