UNIVERSITY OF Edinburgh chiefs are facing calls for the resignation of their rector who has sparked a row after accusing the president of the African nation due to take migrants from the UK of having a hand in genocide.

The university has apologised after human rights lawyer Debora Kayembe, who last year became the first black person and the third woman to hold the prestigious rector position at the university since 1858, issued an apology after she stated the Rwanda president had a role in the 1994 genocide against the minority Tutsi community - which involved the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people.

The Rwandan High Commission in the UK is among those who have petitioned the university to distance itself from the rector who came under fire for tweeting what her critics say amounts to a denial of the genocide of members of the minority Tutsi community in Rwanda, as well as their political opponents, irrespective of their ethnic origin.

The University Court has considered the concerns and has referred the issue to a committee for further consideration. Ms Kayembe, who came to the UK as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and has lived in Scotland since 2011, was accused of espousing double genocide, claiming the slaughter was orchestrated by the president in a now deleted tweet addressed to the Prime Minister.

The remarks emerged at a time when Boris Johnson was defending a new scheme to deport some migrants and asylum seekers illegally entering Britain to the African country.

The move prompted swift backlash from opposition politicians, human rights groups, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

In a tweet to the PM, Ms Kayembe, who 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 wrote: "Should I remind you that the genocide... in 'rwanda [sic] was orchestrated by #Kagame."

She later apologised to "all Rwandans, President Kagame and the Tutsi community around the world" adding: "I realised my comments were hurtful and disrespectful to you.

Those were not the university's but my own views. My sincere apologies. Amahoro (peace)."

HeraldScotland: The University of Edinburgh

But Johnston Busingye, Rwanda's high commissioner to the UK, that that did not amount to an apology nor a withdrawal of the comments which he said were "blatantly denying genocide and spreading misinformation". Ms Kayembe has said she has never denied genocide.

He said the president had led the Rwanda Patriotic Army which "liberated the country from the regime that planned and carried out genocide".

"The statements made by Ms Kayembe constitute genocide denial and revisionism and are offensive to Rwandans around the world and deeply painful to the survivors of the genocide against the Tutsi."

He said that the university should not only disassociate itself with the views, but "take action to ensure Ms Kayembe does not impart her repugnant ideas on the university and student community".

The university distanced itself from what they call Ms Kayembe's personal views, and confirmed its governing body is due to consider any "formal procedures" that may be taken.

The genocide survivor group, the Ishami Foundation told the university that the distancing "does not go far enough in acknowledging the detrimental impact" of the comment.

It said university public apology was required and that a misconduct investigation was required adding: "Failing to acknowledge, prevent or even warn against these views, as an institution, is indicative of inaction and complicity in genocide denial.

Among the other critics of Ms Kayembe, who in 2019 became the first female African to have her portrait hung in The Royal Society of Edinburgh, is former First Minister Lord McConnell who said her comments were "shameful".

Around 85% of Rwandans are Hutus but the Tutsi minority has long dominated the country.

In 1959, the Hutus overthrew the Tutsi monarchy and tens of thousands of Tutsis fled to neighbouring countries, including Uganda.

A group of rebel Tutsi exiles formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which invaded Rwanda in 1990 and fighting continued until a 1993 peace deal was agreed.

In 100 days in 1994, about 800,000 people were slaughtered in Rwanda by extremists from the Hutu ethnic majority targeting members of the Tutsi community, as well as their political opponents, irrespective of their ethnic origin. It was a rate of killing four times greater than at the height of the Nazi Holocaust.

On April 6, 1994 a plane carrying then President Juvenal Habyarimana, and his counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi - both Hutus - was shot down, killing everyone on board.


Hutu extremists blamed the RPF and immediately started a well-organised campaign of slaughter. The RPF said the plane had been shot down by Hutus to provide an excuse for the genocide.

Lists of government opponents were handed out to militias who went and killed them, along with all of their families.

By the time the Tutsi-led RPF gained control of the country through a military offensive, hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were dead and two million refugees (mainly Hutus) fled Rwanda, exacerbating a full-blown humanitarian crisis.

The RPF established a coalition government, with Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu, as president and current president Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, as vice president and defence minister.

Human rights groups say RPF fighters killed thousands of Hutu civilians as they took power. The RPF denies this.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was established in Tanzania in November 1994 by the United Nations to prosecute those behind the genocide.

Over 90 people were indicted and, after lengthy trials, dozens of senior officials in the former Rwandan regime were convicted of genocide, all of them Hutus. Rwanda also set up community courts to prosecute thousands of low level suspects.

As of December, 2015, the ICTR sentenced 61 people to terms of up to life imprisonment for their roles in the massacres which took place over the course of three months of bloodletting by Hutu extremists. Fourteen accused were acquitted and 10 others referred to national courts.


The university initially responded to the calls online for Ms Kayembe to resign by saying she was commenting in a "personal capacity" and that the role of rector was "largely a ceremonial one".

Professor Peter Matheson, the principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh later told Mr Busingye in a letter that the rector's statements were her personal views while it "recognised the hurt caused by [her] statements and recognise the extreme hurt and pernicious destabilisation that genocide denialism can cause to all Rwandans."

Saying the university was committed to continuing to work with the government and the people of Rwanda, Prof Matheson said: "We recognise that the genocide against the Tutsi is a fact of history and represents one of the most appalling crimes against humanity committed in the course of history.

"We reject outright the notion that President Kagame was in any way responsible In fact, it is historical fact that Paul Kagame led the liberation of Rwanda from the guilty regime.

"The facts about the long history preceding the genocide against the Tutsi are clear, and indeed University of Edinburgh academics have contributed scholarship that makes that history clearer."


He said he would ensure the rector was aware of the extent of the high commissioner's concerns.

A University of Edinburgh spokesman said: “We do not share Debora Kayembe's views, which were made in a personal capacity. The University of Edinburgh – in step with the UN, multi-national organisations, and nations all over the world – acknowledges the Genocide against the Tutsi as one of the most appalling crimes against humanity; and rejects outright the notion that the Rwandan government and its sitting President are responsible. At this moment of Kwibuka commemorations in Rwanda, the University stands with the Rwandan people in its remembrance of those who have been lost.

“The University acted swiftly to clarify the role of the Rector and to underline the University’s position, which has been endorsed by the University Court, the University’s governing body. The concerns raised were discussed by the University Court when it met this afternoon and the Court has referred the issue to the appropriate Committee for further detailed consideration. "We are also reaching out to our Rwandan students to ensure they are fully supported at this difficult time.”