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Preparing for genocide: Quasi-experimental evidence from Rwanda

Evelina Bonnier, Jonas Poulsen, Thorsten Rogall and Miri Stryjan

Journal of Development Economics, 2020, vol. 147, issue C

Abstract: This paper shows how state-controlled community meetings can facilitate large-scale mobilization of civilians into violence. We analyze a Rwandan community program that required citizens to participate in community work and political meetings every Saturday in the years before the 1994 genocide. We exploit cross-sectional variation in meeting intensity induced by exogenous weather fluctuations, and find that a one standard-deviation increase in the number of rainy Saturdays before the genocide decreased civilian violence by 17 percent. We find evidence that the meetings provided an arena for local elites to spread propaganda and bring people together. In research and policy, community meetings are often treated as positive, community building forces. Our results indicate that they can also lead to negative outcomes. This should, however, not suggest that such meetings are inherently destructive. Instead, community meetings should be understood as powerful tools and their effects depend on the political intention of the leaders.

Keywords: Genocide; Conflict; Political elites; Industrial organization of conflict; Collective action; Community meetings (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D74 I38 N47 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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Working Paper: Preparing for Genocide: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Rwanda (2016) Downloads
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2020.102533

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