For the first time, two Africans, Joe Frans and Nyamko Sabuni, have been elected to the Swedish parliament. This is a victory for the mariginalized African community in Sweden.
History was made on 1 October when King Karl Gustav of Sweden inducted the country's new parliament, the Riksdag. For the first time, among the 349 MPs were two Africans - Joe Frans (below) from Ghana, and Mrs Nyamko Sabuni (right) from DR Congo. For the small African community in Sweden, this was a great victory because of their status as a minority within a minority. Joe Frans, 38, from Takoradi (Ghana), ran under the banner of the ruling Social Democrats increased their strength to 144 seats. "It is a humbling experience to be elected to a national parliament." an elated Frans told New African. "I see my election as a collective victory for all of us in the Anti-Racist Movement and a giant step for the immigrant community in Sweden."
The Ghanaian has lived in Sweden since 1980. He arrived as an exchange student and loved it, so he stayed and became a pillar supporting the African community. He is very well regarded by community members.
Nyamko Sabuni, a mother of two, on the other hand, run on the ticket of the Liberal Party. She says her success is an indication that Swedes of African descent can succeed in politics. "This will show all Swedes that we are not satisfied to play in the second division," she added. Both MPs have settled for political agendas that hold the masses as its lifeblood. Frans hopes to further the key issues of education and equal opportunity at the work place. "My only goal is to serve the people to the best of my ability. I hope and pray that I can make a difference in pushing for stronger anti-discrimination laws and closer international co-operation in the fight against poverty and disease." He has vowed to push the agenda of the marginalised and give a voice to the voiceless minority and immigrants.
Frans credits his political roots to the Anti-Racist Movement that began in the early 1980s. "I became involved in politics because I believe it is our role as 'citizens of the world ' to be actively engaged in our communities..." He says it is inevitable that more Africans living in Europe will enter politics. "As we continue to live here [in Europe], build families and work here, our hopes and aspirations will become intertwined with politics of the countries in which we live. So more of us will eventually enter European politics, which will be a good thing.' Sabuni, who first attempted to enter the Riksdag four years ago, has very high goals herself. She wants to head the Liberal Party and then eventually become Sweden prime minister. A tall order, many would say, in a country in which some bars and restaurants still refuse to serve black people, because of their colour.
But Sabuni is undaunted. "If circumstances permit and our party members decide, I have no doubt of becoming party leader. As party leader my goal would be to become Sweden's prime minister. Sweden needs a liberal prime minister," she told New Africa.
Like Frans, Sabuni is optimistic that her election will empower immigrants, especially Africans. "We should not be fooled by the politics of integration. What is good for other Swedes is good for us too. We must demand similar opportunities, duties and rights."
New African; London; Nov 2002; Simon Reeves.