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Poland’s African candidate for the European parliament

Jelcz-Laskowice — Fate and a fervent Roman Catholic mother led Patrick Kibangou to move to Poland from Congo-Brazzaville 29 years ago.

He became a Polish citizen and now is running for a seat in the European Parliament where he could become one of its few black deputies.

Kibangou lives in Jelcz-Laskowice, a town on the outskirts of Wroclaw in southwest Poland. His partner, a gynaecologist who is a naturalised Polish citizen of Nigerian origin, has her office in the den of their home.

"Most often we speak Polish amongst ourselves. When we’re cross with each other we speak English, sometimes French," he chuckled.

Kibangou says he wants to give Poland more access to markets in Africa.

"What has motivated me is that I can help Poland find markets, its the promotion of Polish companies, Polish products and Polish culture in developing countries," he told AFP.

Helping Africa also counts, as the arrival of companies from the European Union’s newer members, generally means lower prices and "alternatives for Africans."

"When there will be competition, there will be less blackmail" by Western groups installed in Africa, said Kibangou, who is running for Poland’s Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), a communist party revamped as social democrats.

The 51-year-old engineer is focused on the kind of road infrastructures Poland built in Libya or Iraq prior to 1989 when it was still part of the communist bloc.

"Poles are good in everything", he said. Poland is a country "with intellectuals, people who have made world history, scientists like Marie Curie-Sklodowska and I think Poles are just as capable as the French and English to be in Africa."

Kibangou told of his departure from Congo-Brazzaville to Poland in 1980 and his decision to stay.

After finishing high school in Congo, he wanted to study in France or Germany, but in a dream he heard a voice "you will go to Poland."

"My mother who is a real believer, Catholic, fervently Catholic, told me ‘It’s the country of the Pope, you must go there’," he recalled with a smile, referring to the late Pope John Paul II.

After applications to study in Western Europe were rejected, he decided to go East to earn degrees at the technical university and economics academy in Wroclaw, southwest Poland.

Towards the end of the 1990s he was thinking seriously about going back to Congo, but after war erupted there he found himself without a passport and applied for Polish citizenship.

"I set a record — in less than four months I had my citizenship and then I told myself I was Polish and there you go," he said.

There are few Africans in Poland, but Kibangou says it is not a racist country.

"No, Poles are not racist," he said. "There are marginal cases but that doesn’t count. You also find it in France or England."

Ursula Hyzy/AFP/Expatica