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University of Edinburgh Rector accused of spreading disinformation on the Rwandan genocide

Debora Kayembe, Rector of the University of Edinburgh, has been accused of spreading false information on the Rwandan genocide.

Kayembe said in a tweet that the genocide in Rwanda was “orchestrated by Kagame.” 

Kagame is the current President of Rwanda and has been since 2000. Prior to that Kagame was the commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the force which ended the 1994 genocide.

Kayembe’s now deleted tweet was made in response to the UK Government’s announcement of plans to transport illegal immigrants and asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The High Commission for the Republic of Rwanda in the U.K. issued an official letter to Peter Mathieson, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, stating that: “the statements shared by Ms Kayembe are wildly untrue.” 

The High Commissioner also said, “Her statements amount to flagrant, intentional and cynical genocide denial,” and that, “her reach and influence inevitably derive from her position at the University of Edinburgh which, intentionally or not, provides her with a platform that she is now abusing.” 

The High Commissioner also called for action from the University of Edinburgh and Vice Chancellor.

The High Commission later issued a reply from Professor Peter Mathieson, the Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University, which said that, “We reject outright the notion that President Kagame was in any way responsible.” 

The university also recognised the hurt that had been caused and assured that reports would be made and formal procedures would be followed.

The university affirmed this in a statement, saying that: “We do not share Debora Kayembe’s views, which were made in a personal capacity.” The university stated that their views are in line with the established views of the UN, multi-national organisations, and nations worldwide. 

The University of Edinburgh also took steps to clarify the role of Kayembe within the university, saying that the Rector is not “an appointment of the executive or governing body of the University.” The Rector is instead a position that is elected every year by students and staff of the University, and their primary role is to preside at the University Court.

In addition to this, the university also offered support to Rwandan students, acknowledging that the national commemoration of the genocide took place on 7th April, twenty-eight years after the start of the 1994 genocide. 

In an update to the official statement on 25th April, the University of Edinburgh confirmed that the concerns raised have been discussed by the University Court, and have been referred to the appropriate committee for consideration.

Image courtesy of ‘dbfkayembe’ via Wikimedia Commons