Would you commit genocide? What it takes for an "ordinary" person to commit genocide : case study of Rwanda

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Dionisio, Mariana Figueiredo
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n April 1994, the small nation of Rwanda became the place of one of the most violent episodes of the 20th century. Economical difficulties or old tribal hatreds were some of the explanations given to the occurrence. Yet, none of these explanations could give a satisfying answer to the question: Why did this genocide occur? We should ask ourselves what makes people embark upon a killing spree and commit genocide. The best theories are the ones that try to explain socio-psychologically, what the factors involved in influencing the killings are. Trying to understand why persons, without any psychological pathology, start killing others (many times persons that they knew before and to whom they had a certain degree of proximity) is a fundamental step in the prevention of genocide. If we know the psychological causes, we may, in the future, take the appropriate measures to preventing genocide from happening. This work analyses the main factors that may lead someone to committing acts of extraordinary of evil, and the importance of those factors in making that decision. The principal conclusion of this work is that the principal factor that enables an “ordinary” person to commit genocide is the moral disengagement of the perpetrators. The identification of the moral disengagement mechanism, and the consequent brutalisation of the person, as the most important factor in determining who commits genocide and who refuses to, must be further analysed into trying to find stable and viable solutions in genocide prevention.
Second semester University: National University of Ireland, Galway.
evil, genocide, Rwanda, psychology, victims