Abstract: This paper provides evidence for how politically-controlled community meetings can facilitate large-scale mobilization to mass violence. We analyze a Rwandan mandatory community program that required citizens to participate in community work and political meetings every Saturday in the years before the 1994 genocide. We exploit cross-sectional variation in meeting intensity induced by exogenous weather fluctuations, and find that a one standard-deviation increase in the number of rainy Saturdays before the genocide resulted in a 17 percent lower civilian participation rate in genocide violence. The natural placebo test -- rainfall on all other weekdays in the same period -- yields no statistically significant results. The effect is driven by the meetings in the last six months before the genocide, and we find supportive evidence of the effect working through coordination and diffusion of propaganda. Our robust findings shed light on the potentially detrimental role of government-ordered community meetings. Its importance derives, at the very least, from the resurgence of similar practices in sub-Saharan Africa.
Evelina Bonnier is a Ph.D. candidate at the Stockholm School of Economics and a research assistant at the Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics (SITE). She has a M.Sc. in Economics from Stockholm University. Her research interests lie primarily in development economics, applied microeconometrics, behavioral economics, and gender.