- Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide
Rwanda Since the 1994 Genocide

NEWS

Week 3 – Making sense of the genocide

By gabriela on February 11, 2013

The main reason I am taking this course is to try to understand what led to 1994 genocide in Rwanda. More than that, I really desire to comprehend what psychologically occurred to several thousands of Rwandans that made them believe that slaying their enemy with a machete was the only possible solution to their problems. Straus’s article seems to present historical facts that are not usually talked about when describing the background to the genocide. He goes over hardliner responses that could have played important roles in preparing the country for genocide. Nevertheless, Straus goes way too quickly over social mechanisms that could explain the widespread violence. He mentions scapegoating, crowd behavior and dehumanization.

In search for more details on those issues, I watched Stanley Milgram’s ‘Obedience’. The 1960s film involves footage of a social psychology experiment on obedience to authority figures. It was quite interesting to learn how over 50% of the individuals being experimented on would obey the instructions from what they considered a legitimate authority. They obeyed despite the fact that the commands given involved injuring a third person. The film demonstrates how people are much more inclined in bending their morals when they are in groups, where the responsibility for the wrongful actions committed is dissipated. Additionally, the subjects proceeded with their unethical actions after the scientists assured them that the responsibility of any harm cause to the third individual would be the lab’s and not the subject’s. The film did assist me a bit in comprehending the genocide, especially when the narrator affirms that the person’s “context of action must always be considered” and that “the individual upon entering the lab becomes integrated in a situation that carries its own momentum”. Both of these comments are most definitely relatable to Rwandan’s genocidal actions in 1994.


1 Comment



  • Professor Thomson said:

    Really great that you went to Miligram’s work to understand the psycho-social reasons that individuals kill. Keep in mind that the purpose of Straus’ reading was to introduce national and international factors. I hope you’ll get some answers to your questions of who killed and why from Fujii’s work. In addition, chapter 5 of Straus’ book is available on Moodle as a recommended reading. You could look there to begin to understand why neighbors kill neighbors.

    Whatever you decide, I am looking forward to discuss this point and others in class today!


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