This paper examines the question of why so many ordinary Hutus participated in the genocidal killing of Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994. The author finds that mass mobilisation was contingent on the fulfilment of two main conditions. Firstly, it required a mindset - the internalisation of a set of historical and ideological beliefs - within the Hutu population. These were predominently beliefs in a historical Hutu oppression at the hands of Tutsi and in an ideological definition of the ongoing civil war as an ethnic one, a Tutsi attempt to reinstate this historical order. Secondly, it required the commitment of State institutions to the genocidal project. This commitment provided the initial trigger, legitimacy and impunity for civilian participation in an anti-Tutsi programme. However, once triggered, the degeneration into genocidal violence was the product of a complex interaction of other motives ranging from coercion, opportunism, habituation, conformity, racism and ideological indoctrination.
McDoom, O. Working Paper No. 77. Rwanda’s Ordinary Killers: interpreting popular participation in the Rwandan genocide. (2005) 30 pp.