College Removes Rwandan Professor Accused of Genocide

Leopold Munyakazi taught French at Goucher College until the school learned he was wanted in Rwanda and suspended him with pay. Munyakazi says he has evidence that proves he wasn't involved in the 1994 killings in his native country. Video by AP
By William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Goucher College has removed a visiting Rwandan professor from the classroom after accusations by the Rwandan government that he participated in the 1994 genocide in the central African nation.

The Baltimore County college is investigating the claims against visiting professor Leopold Munyakazi, who teaches French, but has taken the action as a precaution, Goucher President Sanford J. Ungar said in a campuswide e-mail Saturday.

Reached by telephone, Munyakazi said, "I have never, never, never been involved in any genocide." He said Rwandan prosecutors issued documents supporting his innocence when the government charged him years ago and released him.

Ungar said in his e-mail that an NBC news producer working on a series about war criminals living in the United States approached him in December about Munyakazi. The producer was accompanied by a Rwandan prosecutor, who said there were eyewitnesses who said Munyakazi had incited members of the Hutu majority to attack the Tutsi minority.

There is little evidence to exonerate or condemn Munyakazi, Ungar said in his e-mail.

More than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 1994 in highly organized violence that included the systematic rape of Tutsi women.

Alison Des Forges, a senior adviser at Human Rights Watch who testified as an expert witness before an international tribunal on the genocide established by the United Nations, noted that Munyakazi was employed for years as a professor in Rwanda and obtained a passport to leave his home country freely. Normally, anyone accused of genocide would not be allowed to do either, she said.

Some experts have noted that the charges were brought against Munyakazi just weeks after he gave a speech in 2006 in which he questioned the Rwandan government's account of the killings and whether they should be called "civil war, not genocide."

At the time, Munyakazi was a visiting assistant professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey. Ungar said Munyakazi was brought to Goucher under an international program that provides fellowships for scholars threatened in their home countries.

While awaiting clarification from U.S. authorities, Ungar said, Goucher and his family will be provided off-campus housing until the semester's end but will not be allowed to participate in campus activities.

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