Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 October 2020
This chapter introduces Rwanda to the reader and explains why this small central African nation represented an extraordinary baseline for the forces that would ultimately lead to the genocide to unfold against. It begins by tracing Rwanda’s historical trajectory from the precolonial to the postcolonial era and zooms in on those features that increased the risk that political contestation would follow ethnic rather than non-ethnic fault-lines in Rwanda. It also documents those characteristics of Rwanda’s socio-demography and geography – several of which, such as its remarkable population density, were highly unusual – that served as amplifiers of the mobilization and violence. It is these extraordinary socio-demographic and geographic features that would account for the extraordinary characteristics of Rwanda’s violence: the speed with which Rwandans mobilized; the number of victims; the speed with which they were killed; and the nationwide scale of the killing.
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