New French president names three Black cabinet ministers

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(NNPA)—Three Blacks sit atop the new government unveiled this month by newly elected President Francois Hollande, making the French Republic the European leader in political diversity with a government loaded with people of color.

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EUROPEAN LEADER IN DIVERSITY—French President Francois Hollande addresses reporters during a joint press conference with Benin and African Union President Thomas Boni Yayi, left, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, May 29. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)

All three are from the Caribbean region and one is a veteran Parisian lawmaker. A prominent member of the new cabinet is Christiane Taubira from French Guiana.

Taubira was named justice minister—making her the highest ranking woman in the new cabinet. A lawmaker since 1993, she authored a French law in 2001 making slavery a crime against humanity.

Also in an influential post is Victorin Lurel from Guadeloupe. He is the new minister in charge of overseas departments in Africa, the Caribbean and North and South America, roughly equivalent to the U.S. post of secretary of state for the five territories—French Guyana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Reunion and Mayotte—that are included in the French Republic.

Lurel is joined in the Hollande cabinet by George Pau-Langevin, who is also from Guadeloupe. A member of the French Parliament representing Paris, she was named junior Minister for Educational success.

They are part of one of the most diverse cabinets ever for France, reflecting racial and ethnic minorities, including Muslims.

When newly elected French President Hollande forged a new government for the French Republic, his bold first strokes included forming a 34-member cabinet that includes more Blacks than have ever been at the top of a European administration, said newly appointed Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. “It’s a renewed government,” said Ayrault told CNN. “It’s the change the French wanted.”

Half of the Hollande cabinet’s 34 ministers and junior ministers are women. And several have roots in North Africa.

Moroccan-born Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who as official government spokesperson will be the new face of France, is the youngest member of the cabinet. She is 34 years old.

The Junior Minister of Veteran’s Affairs, Franco-Algerian Kader Arif, is a member of European Parliament and prominent supporter of the Palestinians.

Junior Minister for French Expatriates and the French Language Yamina Benguigui, is a French-Algerian feminist filmmaker and a vocal critic of France’s anti-Islam and anti-immigrant policies.

Many are experts in their fields. Taubira, for instance, is an expert on slavery, the author of a law, now called “Loi Taubira,” voted by the French Assembly in 2001, which recognizes the slave trade and slavery as crimes against humanity, according to afrocosmopolian.com.

A divorced mother of four, Taubira has many “firsts.” She is the first person of color to become a presidential candidate and is the first Black woman to be named a full minister in a cabinet in France.

The road to diversity has been a bumpy one for France, a nation that still rules in several political territories that are located far from the French mainland.

Following ethnic urban riots in Paris 2005 and unrest in Guadeloupe in 2009, the French began to respond to the citizen demands for leadership that reflected the broad ethnic and racial cultures that make up the sprawling nation.

The Blacks in the Hollande cabinet are not the first Black appointments to high-ranking government posts. Rama Yade of Senegal held a junior minister post in the cabinet of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was defeated by Hollande. Lurel replaces Marie-Luce Penchardin of Guadeloupe, who ran the overseas department ministry under Sarkozy. She was appointed in 2009 in the wake of the unrest in Guadeloupe.

(Special from the Afro American)

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