Tom Lavers, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester
This text aims to examine a particularly difficult phenomenon to study — slaughter —, although it is at the center of many wars today and yesterday. Slaughter is defined as a generally collective form of action that aims to destroy non-combatants, usually civilians. Slaughter is viewed as an extremely violent, both rational and irrational practice growing out of an imaginary construct pertaining to someone to be destroyed, whom the torturer perceives as a complete enemy.
The aspiration of this text is to show the relevance of exploring slaughter from a comparative standpoint. It will go beyond the mere case study, or rather it will put the best of these studies (on ex-Yugoslavia, Rwanda, etc.) into perspective.
To better understand the process by which the slaughter is put into action, two main directions guide the analysis:
- historic depth: it is in fact difficult to attempt to understand the slaughters that took place in 1990 without taking into account occurrences in the 20th century, including those termed "genocides."
- transdisciplinary overture: slaughter as a phenomenon is so complex in itself that it requires the eye of the sociologist, anthropologist and psychologist, as can be seen in the following pages.
Dealing with the dynamics of rural violence under the multi-party transition (1991-1994), this paper suggests new points of view on the mobilization of Rwandan peasantry during the genocide (1994). Going through local archives and interviews held in the hills and in four prisons of the country, the analysis focuses on the increasing development of an economy of violence. The multi-party system incited competing rural elites to recruit a growing number of men and ruffians against other contenders in order to assure their access to power. Local elites (re)formed patron-client links previously dried by the spreading of money and wage incomes in the countryside. Particular attention is paid to the dimension of political entrepreneurship and to the relationship between social brokers and rural elites, in the course of the struggle between political parties as well as during the building of the Power coalitions which led the massacres locally.