Burundi-born ex-policeman seeks to become Greece’s first Black MP | News


Spiros Richard Hagabimana’s win within the Might 21 vote could be historic in Greece the place migrants hardly ever maintain official posts.

In working-class neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Athens, Spiros Richard Hagabimana goes door to door in an election marketing campaign that might see him turn out to be Greece’s first Black politician.

It’s a outstanding journey for Hagabimana, who simply eight years in the past was jailed in his native Burundi for refusing to open hearth on anti-government protesters as a high-ranking officer of the Nationwide Police.

It will even be an historic win in a rustic the place migrants hardly ever maintain official posts and the place, lower than 10 years in the past, the far-right Golden Daybreak social gathering was the third-most common political power on a fiercely anti-immigrant agenda.

Wearing a go well with and tie, Hagabimana walks the streets of the constituency he’s contesting in Greece’s Might 21 election, assembly voters in farmers’ markets and cafes.

“I’ve an opinion about racism,” Hagabimana, 54, now a senior migration ministry official and candidate with the conservative New Democracy social gathering, instructed Reuters information company.

“Racism can’t be fought with phrases alone. Racism is fought with on a regular basis actions. When the opposite particular person is afraid of the unknown, you could give them a possibility to come back into contact with what they’re afraid of.”

Hagabimana talks with two fishmongers on the island of Salamina [File: Louiza Vradi/Reuters]

In an indication that Greek society is starting to vary, one other Black candidate, Nikodimos-Maina Kinyua, the Kenyan-born founding father of ASANTE, a non-governmental organisation serving to migrants, can also be operating with the left-wing Syriza social gathering in Athens, although he’s seen as having much less of an opportunity of profitable a seat.

The district the place Hagabimana is operating, which incorporates the poverty-hit city of Perama and island of Salamina, simply west of Athens, was a bastion of Golden Daybreak on the top of Greece’s financial disaster in 2015.

Golden Daybreak later imploded and its leaders had been jailed over hate crimes in 2020.

For Hagabimana, it meant Greece had turned a web page.

“(Golden Daybreak) executives had been in parliament. Now they’re in jail. I think about the Greek individuals,” he stated.

Conservative New Democracy party candidate Spiros Richard Hagabimana arrives for an election campaign event at the neighbourhood of Nikaia, near Athens
Hagabimana arrives for an election marketing campaign occasion within the Nikaia neighbourhood, close to Athens [File: Louiza Vradi/Reuters]

Hagabimana first arrived in Greece in 1991 on a scholarship to check on the Naval Academy.

When he graduated in 1996, Burundi was roiled by a navy coup and he was compelled to hunt asylum in Greece. He studied regulation and joined New Democracy’s youth wing.

In 2005, the 12 months he acquired Greek citizenship, Burundi’s 12-year civil conflict ended and Hagabimana determined to return to assist peacekeeping efforts with the United Nations.

Ten years later, the nation was gripped by protests opposing a 3rd presidential time period. Hagabimana, then a nationwide police officer, refused orders to suppress demonstrators and was jailed and crushed, he stated.

Recalling an evening in jail, he stated: “I knew in the event that they hit me on the pinnacle I’d have been completed.”

Whereas in jail, a lawyer buddy in Athens launched a world marketing campaign for his launch. He returned to Athens in 2016, with the assistance of Greek authorities.

Hagabimana’s agenda is business-focused, however he additionally hopes to encourage migrants that “they are often equal members of society … and that all the pieces I achieved, they’ll do extra”.

The color of his pores and skin shouldn’t be the main focus, he stated.

“It’s extra necessary to me that I’m a Greek citizen by selection,” Hagabimana added.

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