A refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Debora Kayembe has been elected the first black Rector of the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom.
Debora Kayembe was elected unopposed and will serve as the University’s 54th Rector, according to the University.
She will assume the role of Rector on 1 March, 2021, replacing Ann Henderson who served as Rector for 3 years.
This is the first time a black woman is taking on the role in over 400 years.
As Rector Kayembe will be a member of the University’s most powerful decision-making body, the University Court.
She will be playing a presiding role to ensure all voices are heard in making important decisions that affect students and staff.
In recent times, Rectors have often seen their role as a point of contact for the University community, seeking to assist with difficulties or issues where they arise.
Debora Kayembe fled her home in the Democratic Republic of Congo 16 years ago when her life was under threat after she helped expose a gun-running militia group.
“It’s been just a rollercoaster, everywhere. Everywhere, the reaction. There is a sentiment of national pride and they are waiting for the inaugural ceremony to come to Scotland to see that with their own eyes,” she said.
Kayembe settled in the United Kingdom where she worked as a human rights lawyer haven been already called to the Congolese Bar Association in 2000.
In August 2019, history was made at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, when Debora became the first African to have her portrait erected at the wall of the society honouring her achievements and contributions to the Scottish Society.
In July 2020, Debora launched the Freedom Walk campaign – a civil rights movement which aims to lobby and campaign on behalf of citizens by promoting social reforms, racial justice and community harmony.
Debora has petitioned the Scottish Parliament in favour of anti-racist education in Scotland.
The Parliament has agreed to the request and will debate the matter in the coming months.