Lawyers

Human rights lawyer turns into first black rector on the College of Edinburgh

A Midlothian woman who was driven out of her home due to racist abuse has now been appointed the rector of Edinburgh University.

Debora Kayembe, originally from Congo, had moved to Scotland in 2005 and has since become one of the country’s most high profile human rights lawyers.

However, her time here has been tainted with a shocking amount of racist abuse from locals, which forced both her and her two children to flee their Bonnyrigg home.

Despite the struggles she has faced, Debora has now taken on the huge role of rector at Edinburgh University, one of the top education sites in the country.

The first woman to hold to position in over 400 years, she will also be the first person of colour to do so.

Speaking to the Daily Record, Debora shared her elation at being given the role.

“It’s wonderful” she said, “I feel so overwhelmed.

“The Congalese president, as well as people from all over Africa and Scotland have congratulated me.

“I can’t wait to get to work.”

However, Debora also shared some of the horrific abuse she has received since trying to make a home in Scotland.

The mum compared the racially motivated attacks she’s suffered at her home in Bonyrigg, Midlothian, as ‘like Alabama in 1964’ – the epicentre of the US Civil Rights movement where black people were subjected to abhorrent racism.

Speaking in November of last year, she said: “I fear for mine and my children’s lives here every single day.

“I’ve had many cars damaged. My tyres have been slashed and had nails put in them and I’ve been spat at while I’m driving.

“I’ve had to call the police on numerous occasions.

“One night, a mob of 10 teenagers stood outside our home and chanted ‘Go home! Go home!’ until a neighbour stepped in to help.

“People also went through a phase of opening my porch door then walking away.

“My daughter was once called ‘ebola soup’ and my son’s class chanted ‘nigger’ in his face.”

With a huge number of accolades behind her, Debora now hopes to make a difference at the university, as she also sits on the board of directors for the Scottish Refugee Council.

She added: “Knowing that the University of Edinburgh want me to be their rector is amazing

“It brings a sense of relief.

“While there are racists in Scotland, there are a lot of people who want better things for society.

Debora will officially begin the role on March 1

“I want to help defend student’s rights, especially during this pandemic.

“I hope my role will help other young people of colour to have courage to speak out and go after what they want.”

Debora was nominated by university staff on February 1.

Later that week her appointment was announced.

Her inauguration should take place on March 1.

Debora is heading up an anti-racism in education campaign for Scots schools.

Visit her official YouTube channel for more information.

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