DRC born Debora Kayembe elected as first black rector of University of Edinburgh

Debora whose duty starts from the first of March 2021 will replace the School’s former rector, Ann Henderson. She has made history as the first black person to assume such position since the establishment of the institution.

Commenting on her election, Debora said that, “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 added that, “it is something in my life I never imagined would happen to me…I never went to look for it, it came into a plate.”

Her new achievement has been credited to her experience base and how resilient she has been over the years in the face of fierce racial discrimination and death threats, all of which she has battled to reach this far.

After being called to the bar in her home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Debora played a major role in dealing with insecurity. In her line of duty, she faced death threats after exposing the operations of a gun-running militia group which necessitated her relocation from the DRC.

She sought asylum in the UK and later moved to Scotland. Reports have it that, the DRC born lawyer has been subjected to various degrees of racial abuses in Scotland which she has been able to manage. Prior to her election, she nearly died from a car accident after moving her car without knowing that, nails were driven through all the tires. “Sometimes you have to have a big heart to let things pass in the common interest, but what happened to me that day was unacceptable.” She responded after the racial targeting. 

She has made several efforts to fight racism in Scotland; Debora is currently petitioning the Scottish parliament to help put a stop to racism in the educational system. She made history back in August 2019 after emerging as the first African to have her portrait erected on the walls of Royal Society of Edinburgh in honor of her achievements and contributions to the Scottish Society.

Debora Kayembe was called to the Congolese Bar Association in 2000. She has been a member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting from 2010 to 2020. She joined the language services of the office of the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Court Bar Association (ICCBA). She also worked as a Scottish Refugee Council board member from 2013 to 2016. Additionally, she represented refugee minorities in the Royal Society of Edinburgh/Young Academy of Scotland. She equally has a seat as an expert lawyer to the RSE Working Group for Africa.

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