Mass murder and motivation : the Rwandan genocide

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

This project is about mass murderers and the motivation for becoming perpetrators of mass murder. The Rwandan genocide is chosen as a case study. The project strives to explain what seems inexplicable; why tens of thousands of Rwandan men and women turned into killers during the hundred days of genocide in 1994, most of them with no history of murderous behaviour. This project is a testimony to the human capacity for evil. The motivations behind the Rwandan perpetrators were probably not umque. Similar motivations were important to different mass murders. Other mass murders, most importantly the Holocaust, serve as a theoretical and empirical backdrop throughout this thesis. This adds a comparative dimension to the study. This thesis is divided into six chapters with the main focus upon three motivational factors behind the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide: history, ideology and ordinary human traits. The first chapter introduces us to the topic of mass murder and discusses methodological issues in connection with the thesis. A qualitative analysis will be dominant in investigating the data; the data was gathered through interviews undertaken in Rwanda, South Africa and Norway, reports, documentaries, court verdicts and other secondary sources. In the second chapter, perpetrators behind one massacre, the killing of several thousand Tutsis at the Catholic Church in Nyarubuye, speak about their motivations for becoming perpetrators. The third chapter gives an introduction to the history of Rwanda and shows how distinction between Hutus and Tutsis became an ever more important part of Rwandan society from pre colonial times until the 1994 genocide. The fourth chapter builds an understanding of the importance of ideology for the perpetrators involved in the mass murder. The fifth chapter shows that general psychological traits were important for turning tens of thousands of Hutus into mass murderers. As we shall see in the conclusion, a history of distinction, Hutu Power ideology and ordinary psychological traits were all factors motivating the perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 126-134).