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Exposure to Genocide as a Risk Factor for Homicide Perpetration in Rwanda: A Population-Based Case-Control Study.

  • Rubanzana, Wilson1, 2
  • Hedt-Gauthier, Bethany L1, 3
  • Ntaganira, Joseph1
  • Freeman, Michael D4, 5, 6
  • 1 1 University of Rwanda College of Medicine and Health Sciences, Kigali, Rwanda. , (Rwanda)
  • 2 2 Rwanda National Police, Forensic Medicine and Coordination Office of "Isange" One Stop Centers for Victims of Gender Based Violence and Victims of Child Abuse, Kigali, Rwanda. , (Rwanda)
  • 3 3 Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
  • 4 4 Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR, USA.
  • 5 5 Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden. , (Sweden)
  • 6 6 Aarhus University, Denmark. , (Denmark)
Published Article
Journal of interpersonal violence
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2018
DOI: 10.1177/0886260515619749
PMID: 26681788


A population-based case-control study was conducted to assess the relationship between genocide exposure and homicide perpetration in Rwanda. A sample of 150 homicide perpetrators who were charged with and confessed to having committed homicide between 1 May 2011 and 31 May 2013 and 450 controls were enrolled. Cases were matched to controls by neighborhood, age and sex. Socio-demographic, background and genocide-related information was collected from study subjects' next of kin. Four characteristics of genocide exposure were: genocide survivor, genocide perpetrator, having lost a first-degree relative to genocide and having a first-degree relative convicted of genocide. We assessed the impact of each genocide-exposure variable using conditional logistic regression. Of the 150 cases, 124 (82.7%) were male and 26 (17.3%) were female. The mean age of the alleged homicide perpetrators was 33 years, with a peak in the age group 20-29 years (39.3%). After adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and past common criminal records, having a first-degree relative who had been convicted of genocide crimes was a significant predictor for homicide perpetration (odds ratio [OR] = 14.4, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.6-129.4). Being a genocide perpetrator, a genocide survivor and having lost a first-degree family member to genocide were not identified as risk factors for homicide perpetration. In Rwanda, young people who experienced early exposure to trauma by witnessing their first-degree relatives' active participation in the genocide, are more likely to commit homicide. Socio-economic and psychotherapeutic programs targeting this population group are needed to rehabilitate these young people for violent behavior change.

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