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Mon, 03.31.1969

Nyamko Sabuni, Politician born

Nyamko Sabuni

*Nyamko Sabuni was born on this date in 1969.  She is an Afro Swedish (Black Swede) politician and former government cabinet minister.

Nyamko Ana Sabuni was born in Bujumbura, Burundi.  Her family relocated in exile after her father, Maurice Sabuni, a left-wing politician from Congo (formerly Zaire), had been frequently jailed. The Sabuni family is Muslim and was granted political asylum in Sweden in 1981.  She has six siblings and describes herself as non-religious.

Sabuni grew up in Kungsängen, a Stockholm suburb. After school, she studied law at Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden, migration policy at Mälardalen University, Västerås, Sweden, and information and media communications at Berghs School of Communication in Stockholm.  Sabuni is one of the founders of the National Afro-Swedish Association, where she worked as a project manager. She also served as a project manager at Folksam insurance company and as a PR consultant at the Norwegian-owned company Geelmuyden Kiese.

From 2004 to 2012, Sabuni married Allan Bergquist, with whom she had twin boys. She speaks Swedish, English, and Swahili.  Sabuni’s political engagement started after the neo-Nazi murder of an Ivorian refugee in 1995.  After the incident, she joined Folkpartiet (the Liberal People's Party).  She was a board member of the Liberal Youth of Sweden from 1996 to 1998, a board member of Folkpartiet from 2001 to 2013, and an elected member of the Swedish Parliament in 2002.

After the election of October 2006, when the liberal and right-wing alliance “Alliansen” came to power, Sabuni was appointed Minister for Integration and Gender Equality. She is the first African to be appointed minister in the Swedish government. She resigned from the government in 2013, stating that a successor should be well prepared before the 2014 general election in which Alliansen lost power. Nyamko entered her duties as vice president of sustainability at the engineering and consulting company ÅF AB in 2013.

A mission as minister for gender equality and integration is a difficult task in any country, which was the case in Sweden. Nyamko’s actions brought reactions from different societal fractions across the nation. Her appointment as minister was met with protests from some Swedish Muslims who, despite her religious background, accused her of Islamophobia because of her fight against honor traditions.

Shortly after her election into office, she decided to judge all non-governmental organization funding from her department equally and in the competition, which resulted in the withdrawal of funding for the organization “Centrum mot racism” (Centre against racism), where her uncle Mkyabela Sabuni was a director. Nyamko Sabuni’s liberal views clashed with the beliefs and actions of many Swedish Muslims.

One of her basic values is that immigrants must adapt to their new country. “A lot of people misread their rights. They think freedom of religion means they can do anything in the name of religion…. If they want to live here [in Sweden], have kids, have grandchildren, they must make an effort to adapt to the society where they live.”
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