A HUMAN rights lawyer who came to Scotland as a refugee has been named rector of Edinburgh University.

Debora Kayembe fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has lived in Scotland since 2011. She will now be the first person of colour and third woman to take the prestigious job since its creation in 1858.

She said: “I am delighted and deeply honoured.”

Outgoing rector Ann Henderson and broadcaster Muriel Gray are the only other women to have held the position. Male rectors include William Gladstone, Winston Churchill and Gordon Brown.

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 have her portrait erected on the wall of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, honouring her achievements and contributions.

She recently launched the Freedom Walk campaign, a civil rights movement promoting social reforms, racial justice and community harmony.

Kayembe will begin her work as rector next month, playing a presiding role at the university court, the institution’s governing body.

She said: “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.”

University principal Professor Peter Mathieson 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.”