How could you give us so much - so much - and take away more?!
~ Silvia Broome, confronting Dr. Zuwanie.

Dr. Edmund Zuwanie , also known as "The Teacher", is the main antagonist of the 2005 political thriller film The Interpreter. He is the elderly president of the fictional African country of Matobo, and is a corrupt and oppressive tyrant.

He was portrayed by Bermudan actor Earl Cameron.


Initially a liberator, Dr. Zuwanie was considered a hero to Matobans during the early years of his presidency due to the fact that the government he had overthrown had been one of the most corrupt in the world. However, as time wore on, Zuwanie became a cruel, tyrannical dictator responsible for terrible acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other atrocities in Matobo. His government had effectively become even worse than the one it replaced.

Zuwanie's two primary political opponents were a man named Ajene Xola, who was the leader of a guerrilla militia, and a man named Kuman-Kuman, a former government minister. Two members of Xola's group were Simon and Silvia Broome, who joined after their mother, father, and sister are killed in a land mine explosion. However, after Silvia was forced to kill a young boy in self-defense, she was left traumatized and disillusioned with Xola's movement, which lead to a terrible falling out with Simon. Silvia would go on to join the United Nations, where she would work as an interpreter.

Both Ajene Xola and Kuman-Kuman were fierce rivals with each other due to their different ideologies, but eventually, conditions in Matobo became so bad that they decide to set aside their differences and unite their two movements against Zuwanie. Before this can happen, however, Kuman-Kuman is forcibly exiled from Matobo, and Xola, as well as Simon, are executed by Dr. Zuwanie's child soldiers while investigating an abandoned soccer stadium. It is revealed for the first time that Zuwanie is called "the Teacher" when one child soldier says, "The Teacher says 'Good day to you.'" before executing Simon Broome.

Meanwhile, the UN is considering referring Dr. Zuwanie to the International Criminal Court in The Hague so he can face trial for crimes against humanity. One night, Silvia accidently overhears a couple of unspecified people (later revealed to be Jean Gamba and Jad Jamal, a pair of Matoban nationals) speaking Ku (the native language of Matobo) in the UN General Assembly chamber, saying that "the Teacher" would never leave that room alive. Though she is initially unsure what this means, when it is revealed that Dr. Zuwanie will be exercising his right to speak before the UN General Assembly later that week, she comes to the conclusion that whoever she overheard were planning to assassinate him, and she reports what she heard to her superiors. The UN take the threat seriously and call in the United States Secret Service to protect Zuwanie when he arrives as well as investigate the threat.

Later on during the investigation, when Silvia learns about Simon's death, as well as a failed attempt by Gamba to kill her, she is overcome with grief and rage and finally decides that her brother's way is the right one.

When Dr. Zuwanie arrives in New York, he is driven by motorcade to the UN, where hundreds of Matobans have gathered to protest him speaking there. He begins his speech, and goes on to claim that actions were not "genocide" or "ethnic cleansing", but rather him taking extreme measures to deal with terrorists in his country. However, in the middle of his speech, Agent Tobin Keller (who has been leading the Zuwanie investigation) spots the assassin - an aide at the Matoban mission named Marcus Matu - peparing to fire from one of the sound booths, and he has Zuwanie rushed into the nearby safe room.

Unbeknownst to Tobin, Silvia had been waiting in that room the whole night, waiting specifically for Dr. Zuwanie. She steals his gun from him and holds it against his head, prepared to shoot at any moment. She goes on an emotional tirade about how such a good man had become so horrible. In the midst of this tirade, Tobin comes in and reveals that the "assassination attempt" was just an act, a piece of theatre to cast Zuwanie in a more sympathetic light, and they had all the information they needed to indict him. But Silvia is still overcome with grief and anger and wanted Zuwanie to die "the way Simon died". Throughout this whole ordeal, Dr. Zuwanie himself is silent and seemingly accepting of his possible fate.

Tobin tries to talk Silvia out of doing this, but she orders him to leave. As a last resort, Tobin pulls out his own gun and aims it at her. He tells her that, if she shot Zuwanie, he would have to shoot her, and he couldn't bear to have all that blood on his hands.

Though Silvia doesn't shoot Zuwanie, she still holds him at gunpoint and forces him to read the beginning of his autobiography from his days as a liberator, "when he meant it." He then looks at a picture of himself as a young boy, and appears to show the slightest bit of remorse, but only briefly. Silvia then puts down the gun.

Zuwanie is then forced to read the names of the victims of his genocide to the General Assembly as part of a plea deal, presumably as proof that his acts were indeed genocide, and it is then revealed that he will be tried before the ICC for crimes against humanity.


  • Dr. Zuwanie might be loosely based on Robert Mugabe, the real-life former President of Zimbabwe. Mugabe was also initially a liberator, but during the thirty years he served as President, he was repeatedly accused of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity, and is widely considered to be a dictator. The Zimbabwean Government itself believed the character of Zuwanie to be a caricature of Mugabe.
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