Researchers have suggested through a study that 1994 genocide in Rwanda was led by middle-aged men with 88% of the people participating in the act were men with an average age of 34 years and married. Over 229,000 individuals were found guilty of a violent offense.
The study, published recently in the Journal of Peace Research, provides the most comprehensive information about the participants in one of the deadliest episodes of violence during the 20th century. Up to 1 million people were killed in the genocide in Rwanda, mostly members of the Tutsi ethnic group.
The researchers are the first to have obtained access to the complete records of nearly all 1.9 million trials of the gacaca courts, which the Rwandan government set up to try people suspected of participating in the genocide.
Study results showed that between 847,233 and 888,307 people participated in the genocide in Rwanda. About one-fifth of them participated only in violent crimes, with the great majority only involved in property crimes – most often looting victims and their homes. A small number committed both property and violent crimes.
While women were less likely to perpetrate genocide, over 10,000 women committed violent offenses, with many more committing property crimes.
Overall, 88% of all participants were men, while about 95% of those who committed only violent offenses were men.
This goes along with other research showing that men commit most crimes and especially violent crimes, and it is also consistent with research showing that the Rwandan government encouraged men of the dominant Hutu ethnic group to kill Tutsi.
The government rationale that Hutu men had to protect their families may also help explain why this study found that participants were relatively older.
The median age for all participants was 34 – and that age did not change much when the researchers looked at just those who committed violent crimes or those who committed multiple crimes.
The life expectancy in Rwanda just before the genocide began was less than 50 so the perpetrators were truly middle-aged.
Participants in the genocide were also likely married, which is not surprising given their age. Statistics show that about 87% of 33-year-old men in Rwanda at the time of the genocide were married or had been married. Results showed that about 75% of those found guilty of any crimes of genocide, property damage or violence against people, were found guilty of only one crime. But 6% of participants accounted for 25% of all crimes.
That included 11% of people who accounted for 25% of violent crimes and 6% who accounted for 25% of all property crimes.