From Hotel Staff In Kenya To MP In Switzerland: How Yvonne Apiyo Amolo Defied All Odds

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From Hotel Staff In Kenya To MP In Switzerland: How Yvonne Apiyo Amolo Defied All Odds

 

 

By Moses Kinyanjui

Yvonne Apiyo Brandle Amolo has elucidated how she toiled through the gnarly path of leaving Kenya, ditching her citizenship, and eventually becoming a Member of Parliament in Switzerland through the Social Democratic Party.

 

 

MP Amolo, who now serves among other 245 members elected by the people, says that her battle with the Swiss immigration department to avoid being rendered stateless is what won her a path into the European nation’s politics.

 

 

 

Speaking to Citizen TV’s Victoria Rubadiri, Amolo narrates of how a relationship with a Swiss man granted her a trip to the foreign nation, a place she now calls home.

 

 

She says that years ago, while she was working in guest relations at the Sarova Panafric Hotel in Nairobi, she met her lover, who later became her husband.

 

 

 

“The Swiss Air usually rents apartments for their crew to stay in. He was a member of the Swiss Air crew, I was guest relations (at Sarova),” she said in the Saturday interview.

 

 

 

“That’s how I got to meet him because they (crew) had to ask me for everything they needed so we became friends, it progressed then he asked me to visit him in Switzerland.”

 

 

 

 

About a month later after traveling to Switzerland, Amollo added, he asked her hand in marriage and “I said yes. The rest is history.”

 

 

 

 

While in the country, she was however met with the tumbling block of language barrier as she could not speak the four languages spoken in the nation; German, Italian, French and Rhaeto-Romanic.

 

 

 

 

“I’m still in the German-speaking part. I didn’t learn it for the first three years so I was very lonely and Europe is a very individualistic continent and I still didn’t have friends after three years,” she said.

 

 

 

 

Her lucky charm was her love for music owing to her musical roots in the Luo community and she learned to yodel, a Swiss traditional feature of folk music.

 

 

 

 

“That helped a lot to make friends, then I got a really good job in a casino where I was the only black person,” she said.

 

 

 

 

Her love story however did not last long as they divorced in 2009 and then she got a letter in 2012 notifying her of a looming revocation of her citizenship.

 

 

 

 

That was when she decided to sue the immigration department for being targeted yet she had been a law-abiding citizen.

 

 

 

 

“I decided to take the immigration office to court and at the time I had to give up my Kenyan pass to get the Swiss one. So if I had given up the Swiss one like they had asked me to do, I would be stateless and with that you cannot do anything,” she narrated.

 

 

 

 

That inspired her to produce a film titled “Not Swiss Made” which made her retain her Swiss passport. The film, which has acquired global recognition and won about 28 awards to date, forced the immigration department to back down and withdraw their deportation threat.

 

 

 

 

Entering politics
MP Amolo says that somebody from her current party happened to watch her film “and said we need this crazy black woman” because he admired how she fought for her rights as a migrant “in a level we have never seen.”

 

 

 

 

They then contacted the head of the region she was residing in then she was asked if she had an interest in joining politics.

 

 

 

 

She says she agreed only if they would enroll her in a school and pay for her studies. They also agreed on the condition that if she completed her studies and politics was not her passion, she would not be required to pay back the money.

 

 

 

 

 

“They held their end of the bargain, they put me on the list, people voted for me and I got in,” she said.

 

 

 

 

Defining legislation was when she wrote an initiative that demanded the number of women that were in her area be increased in the military, fire and police departments upto 30%.

 

 

 

The bill unfortunately failed to sail through as there was a deficit of two votes.

 

 

 

“What I do has affected a lot of women and girls. We are 50% of the population and also in my area we are 50% immigrants so I demanded for that,” she said.

 

 

 

 

She then joined the military, despite being beyond the age limit, 26, and joined the civilian protection department to advocate for the protection and support of migrants.

 

 

 

 

She still serves in the army and has been able to convince at least 12 women to join the military and they have even gotten promotions.

 

 

 

 

MP Amolo is also the President of the European Minority Parliamentarians Caucus, which was formed to unite minority Parliamentarians to exchange initiatives and support each other in fostering better leadership.

 

 

 

She has so far met 15 Parliamentarians from Kenya in Geneva for a crash course on negotiating skills to mend the negotiating deficits between nations in the global north and the global south.

 

 

 

She has also met the American and Canadian Black Parliamentarian Caucus and they have signed MoUs on strengthening their working relations.

 

 

 

She is now in Kenya to sign an MOU with the Kenyan Parliament “because they are willing to work with me.”

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