The Journal of Modern African Studies



Explaining the 1994 genocide in Rwanda


Helen M. Hintjens a1
a1 Centre for Development Studies, School of Social Sciences and International Development, University of Wales Swansea, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP; h.hintjens@swansea.ac.uk

Abstract

Any adequate account of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda must acknowledge manipulation by external forces, domestic pressures and psychological factors. Even so, the nature of the Rwandan state must be seen as absolutely central. The genocide took place under the aegis of the state, and Rwandans were the main actors involved. Both precolonial legacies and colonial policies contributed to the formation of this state, whose increasingly autocratic and unpopular government was, by the early 1990s, facing serious threats to its hold on state power, for which genocide represented a last-ditch attempt at survival. Many of the mechanisms through which genocide was prepared, implemented and justified in Rwanda bore striking resemblances to those used during the twentieth century's other major genocide, the Nazi Holocaust against the Jews.