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Preparing for Genocide: Community Work in Rwanda

by Evelina Bonnier (with Jonas Poulsen, Thorsten Rogall and Miri Stryjan), SITE Working paper

How do political elites prepare the civilian population for participation in violent conflict? We empirically investigate this question using village-level data from the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. Every Saturday before 1994, Rwandan villagers had to meet to work on community infrastructure, a practice called Umuganda. This practice was highly politicized and, in the years before the genocide, regularly used for spreading political propaganda. To establish causality, we exploit cross-sectional variation in meeting intensity induced by exogenous weather fluctuations. We find that an additional rainy Saturday resulted in a five percent lower civilian participation rate in genocide violence. These results pass a number of indirect tests of the exclusion restriction as well as other robustness checks and placebo tests.

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