Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Localized Ethnic Conflict and Genocide: Accounting for Differences in Rwanda and Burundi


Author Info

  • Ravi Bhavanani
  • David Backer


This paper seeks to explain the variation in the scale of violence across episodes of ethnic conflict, using data from Rwanda and Burundi. To do so, we explore the "dark side" of in-group policing -- when it is exploited for mass killing, instead of being used as a mechanism to reduce ethnic violence. Our efforts build upon Fearon & Laitin (1996), who concede that this mechanism could backfire if an ethnic group announces its intent to attack a rival ethnic group, rather than to pursue cooperation. We develop a computational model that departs from Fearor & Laitin by assuming individuals vary in their propensity to engage in violence, form independent beliefs about ethnic rivals, and respond to catalysts, namely messages about the scale of ethnic voilence that is occurring across the country. In addition, members of the politically dominant ethnic group face sanctions for non-participation. Given these assumptions, our model yields significant variance in the scale of violence across episodes. Our analysis has important implications for the containment of ethnic conflict. We demonstrate that (1) the interaction between nominal ethnic rivals is rarely deterministic, and as a result, the preference for tracking structural factors may be somewhat misguided; (2) that changes in aggregate levels of trust influence the patterns of violence -- communities exhibiting high-levels of inter-ethnic trust are more likely to experience intense episodes of ethnic violence that subside rapidly, in contrast to moderate violence that is sustained over a long period of time; (3) metanorms that sanction non-participants within an ethnic group lead to more extensive episodes of violence.

Download Info

To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
1. Check below under "Related research" whether another version of this item is available online.
2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Santa Fe Institute in its series Working Papers with number 99-07-053.

as in new window
Date of creation: Jul 1999
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:99-07-053

Contact details of provider:
Postal: 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501
Web page:
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords: Ethnic conflict; agent based model; Rwanda and Burundi;

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
as in new window
  1. Kandori, Michihiro, 1992. "Social Norms and Community Enforcement," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(1), pages 63-80, January.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
  1. Florence Kondylis, 2005. "Agricultural returns and conflict: quasi-experimental evidence from a policy intervention programme in Rwanda," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19878, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  2. Florence Kondylis, 2008. "Agricultural Outputs and Conflict Displacement: Evidence from a Policy Intervention in Rwanda," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(1), pages 31-66, October.


This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.


Access and download statistics


When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:99-07-053. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Thomas Krichel).

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.