Victim or Villain? The Mystery of Goucher’s Rwandan Refugee Scholar

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“This seems like a nice college,” the NBC producer told Sanford Ungar, Goucher’s president. “But you have someone working for you who has done terrible things.”  Thus begins Ungar’s riveting account (published in this month’s New York magazine) of a Rwandan guest scholar named Leopold Munyakazi who, by many accounts, was not what he at first seemed.

“Dignified yet humble, shy, and sincere, one of the few faculty members who routinely dressed in suit and tie, Leopold became a familiar figure in the library and on the campus paths, almost disappointingly low-key and dull,” Ungar writes. That image contrasts strikingly with the accusations that NBC’s producers would later levy:  that Munyakazi had publicly incited genocide, that he had trained and distributed arms to Hutu militias, that he had complained publicly that the massacres were “lagging behind,” that he had turned over to the militias a woman who’d tried to take refuge in his house. The scholar denied the claims, proferring his own theory of what took place in Rwanda in 1994.

The story is, of course, much more complicated than either of these narratives; you can read Ungar’s thoughtful, considered take here. It’s impossible to walk away from the story without mixed feelings — but the one thing that seems clear is that Ungar is a man who cares about his college, and who cares about the truth. As he writes near the end of his piece, “Ignorance is its own kind of exile.”

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