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Malthus in Rwanda? Scarcity, Survival and Causes of the Genocide


  • Yanagizawa, David

    () (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University)


This paper does two things. First, it develops a game theoretical model over population groups that optimize their survival under resource scarce conditions. The model includes two rather obvious, but in the theoretical literature neglected, strategies - survival by migration and, once a conflict is ignited, survival by taking refuge. Results include determinants of migration and refugee flows, the threshold for violent conflict and its intensity. Second, it derives the necessary and sufficient conditions for a genocide and applies the model in order to analyze the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. It suggests that the extremist regime that seized power on April 6th 1994, while being on a genocide agenda exploited the underlying resource scarce conditions by way of forcefully destroying property rights and massively support appropriative actions, thereby facilitating the killings and persecutions of Tutsis on the scale of a genocide. Finally, key to understanding the scope of the genocide in 1994, is suggested to be that the extremist regime was not only the active support of appropriative actions, but the simultaneous and deliberate destroying of the refugee infrastructure. The difference in the level of refugee infrastucture can possibly explain why earlier violent episodes had lower conflict intensity although sharing some similar characteristics.

Suggested Citation

  • Yanagizawa, David, 2006. "Malthus in Rwanda? Scarcity, Survival and Causes of the Genocide," Working Papers in Economics 201, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics, revised 31 Aug 2006.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:gunwpe:0201

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    Cited by:

    1. Willa Friedman, 2013. "Local Economic Conditions and Participation in the Rwandan Genocide," HiCN Working Papers 160, Households in Conflict Network.
    2. Ann-Sofie Isaksson, 2015. "Unequal Property Rights: A Study of Land Right Inequalities in Rwanda," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(1), pages 60-83, March.
    3. Ann-Sofie Isaksson, 2013. "Manipulating the Rural Landscape: Villagisation and Income Generation in Rwanda," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 22(3), pages 394-436, June.

    More about this item


    Genocide; Conflict; Rwanda; Resource Scarcity; Malthus;

    JEL classification:

    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • N47 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Africa; Oceania
    • Q29 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Other

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