Diversity in the city

First African councillor to sit in city government

Editorial Staff
March 9, 2006

Senegalese Pape Mbaye Diaw has the daunting task of being the first African city councillor to enter Florence’s governing body. Diaw has jumped enthusiastically to the task, well aware of the significance of this role.


Diaw was called to office to fill the seat of Luigi Ontanetti, of the Communist Refoundation Party (PRC), who stepped down for health reasons. Diaw’s name came up because he had received enough votes during local elections held in 2005 to come in as the first non-elected candidate on the PRC list.


46-year-old Diaw was born in Dakar, Senegal, and arrived in Italy over two decades ago, initially for study. After he received his degree in languages from the University of Florence, he remained here and went on to have a family (he has four children) and to develop a career in the social sector. Diaw has long been an advocate of immigrants’ rights. He himself received Italian citizenship in 1996 but he firmly believes that non-citizen residents must be able to have a political voice in their place of residence. He has pushed hard for foreign residents to obtain the right to vote.


Because of this long and heartfelt involvement in the social sector, Diaw announced he would continue to dedicate his new political efforts to the ‘weaker’ members of the community, primarily immigrants and the elderly.


To allow more time for his new role as councillor, Diaw will step down as president of the Senegalese community in Tuscany, which counts between 6-7,000 members.  His many initiatives in this role included the ‘Multi-ethnic Market’ located on the Lungarno Pecori Giraldi. The market was an effort to create a legal space and meeting centre where Senegalese and other foreigners could sell their goods.


Not only will Diaw be the first African to serve in Florence’s governing body but he is also the only Muslim. He was quick to point out that his religious identity would take the back burner while he confronts the primary issues that face him during his time in office. In fact, in response to a recent controversy over Christian crucifixes in public buildings, Diaw responded that he didn’t feel this was a  major issue.


Florence’s Council of Foreigners, which is a part of the local government but does not have the power to vote, considered Diaw’s entrance as a significant step ahead. ‘The reciprocal relations and cultural exchange between the various communities in Florence will definitely make headway. With Diaw’s arrival we will be able to discuss more profoundly some of the fundamental themes of our city, particularly those of social inclusion.’

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