A look at Rwanda’s genocide helps explain why ordinary people kill their neighbors | Science News

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A look at Rwanda’s genocide helps explain why ordinary people kill their neighbors

Rather than blindly obeying orders, perpetrators felt a sense of duty

By
3:00pm, August 8, 2017
Photographs of Rwandans killed in 1994 genocide

DUTY BOUND KILLINGS  Part of the Kigali Genocide Memorial, these photographs of Rwandans killed in a 1994 mass slaughter put human faces on an unimaginable tragedy. Many factors other than obedience to authorities drove some Rwandans to kill others.

A string of state-directed, targeted mass killings left a bloody stain on the 20th century. A genocide more recent than the Holocaust is providing new insights into why some people join in such atrocities.

Adolf Hitler’s many accomplices in his campaign to exterminate Jews throughout Europe have justifiably attracted the attention of historians and social scientists. But a 100-day spasm of unprecedented violence in 1994 that wiped out about three-quarters of the ethnic Tutsi population in the African nation of Rwanda has the potential to reveal much about how mass killings unfold at ground level.

There is no guarantee that a better, although inevitably incomplete, understanding of why certain members of Rwanda’s majority Hutu population nearly eliminated a Tutsi minority will prevent future large-scale slaughters. The research is worth the effort, though, especially in a 21st century already marked by massacres of hundreds of thousands of people in western

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