The Ivorian-Italian MP Aboubakar Soumahoro was praised in the Italian left-wing press as the first man of colour to enter the Italian Parliament at the time of the September 2022 legislative elections. Accused of mistreating migrants, he now has to step down.
Aboubakar Soumahoro arrived in Italy in 1999 as a shoeshine boy from the Ivory Coast. After doing various jobs, he became a trade unionist to defend the rights of immigrants. He went on to study sociology and then ran for parliament in September 2022 under the colours of the Green and Left Alliance. For the Left, in Italy and abroad, his election became a symbol of integration and meritocracy: he was the first MP of African origin to enter the Italian Parliament—a strong symbol to display at the time of Meloni’s victory.
Today, his position is shaken by a scandal involving his wife and his mother-in-law, one about which he claims to have no knowledge. Investigations are targeting migrant aid cooperatives run by Soumahoro’s wife and mother-in-law, who allegedly provided irregular contracts, failed to pay employees, evaded taxes, and allowed migrants to live in precarious conditions in publicly funded facilities.
The two women managed the Karibu and Consorzio Aid cooperatives, which provide “services for the reception and integration of asylum seekers, political refugees, and immigrants in the territory within the framework of the Sprar (System for the Protection of Asylum Seekers and Refugees) generalised reception project.” Former residents of the cooperatives have denounced the situation to the press and trade unions. They described “unacceptable living conditions” due to poor hygiene, lack of electricity, clothing, food, and water, and the absence of pocket money, which should have amounted to €10 per day.
The revelations have created a storm of public opinion in Italy, especially since Soumahoro’s wife is known to regularly appear in the press, advertising an extravagant lifestyle that has earned her the nickname “Lady Gucci.” On that issue, her husband is keen to defend her in the name of her “right to fashion and elegance.”
Soumahoro’s parliamentary colleagues, like Senator Daniele Pozzi, denounced the “hypocrisy” of a man who had not hesitated to appear in the Assembly with muddy boots, presenting them as “a symbol of the sufferings and hopes of the real country that enters the Chamber with [him] to legislate.”
Today, those statements “in memory of those who died on the job, those who are discriminated against, and those who are hungry” are coming back to haunt Soumahoro, whose wife usually wears designer clothes. His arrogance and levity do not sit well with the political class. According to the testimony of the former mayor of Naples, Luigi De Matris, the trade unionist of Ivorian origin possessed “perfect awareness that there were opaque affairs that ran through him.”
He claims to know nothing about this affair. But the issue is so dramatically important for those exploited young people who are fighting for their rights, that we cannot fail to commit ourselves to shedding light on it.
Angelo Bonelli, spokesman of Europa Verde, speaking on Radio2, referred to it as “a very ugly affair.” Soumahoro eventually announced that he was leaving his parliamentary group and stepping aside.