Meet the Congolese ex-asylum seeker to lead a Scottish university

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Human rights lawyer Debora Kayembe was named rector of the University of Edinburgh, one of the UK’s most prestigious institutions, in early February. She will assume her new role on 1 March.

Ms Kayembe has served on the board of the Scottish Refugee Council and is a member of the office of the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Court Bar Association.

In 2019, she became the first African to receive this honour for her achievements and contributions by having her portrait hung on the wall of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Ms Kayembe said: “I am delighted and deeply honoured to be elected as the first person of colour to hold the position of rector of the University of Edinburgh.

“I am fully aware of the importance of my role at such a critical time.

“We are facing so many challenges: from the Covid-19 pandemic to the battles for racial justice and the reckoning from the past in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the birth of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

“Respect for the values of humanity and kindness lies at the heart of all my work and I look forward to working with staff, students, and the whole university community, to ensure that everyone is valued.”

Professor Peter Mathieson, Edinburgh University principal and vice-chancellor, said: “I am delighted to welcome Ms Kayembe to the University of Edinburgh.

“The position of rector has a long and prestigious lineage, with rectors coming from a broad range of public and cultural life.

“I very much look forward to working with our new rector as we navigate our way through the Covid-19 pandemic and build a bright future for the entire University community.”

The 45-year-old Kinshasa-born political activist and human rights lawyer becomes the first black person and the third woman to hold the prestigious position since 1858. She is resuming her new role today March 1.

Human rights lawyer Debora Kayembe came to the UK from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has been living in Scotland since 2011.

Ms Kayembe will take up the role on 1 March, becoming the first person of colour to do so since it was created in 1858.

She will be the third woman to hold the position, following Muriel Gray and outgoing rector Ann Henderson.

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Written by nationscoops

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