Friday, October 16, 2009

Danger: Truth Ahead

Christian Davenport and Allan Stam have been researching the course of violence in Rwanda in 1994. The linked piece tells the tale of their project--how it started, where it led them, and what they found. To summarize, they sought to understand who got killed and where, but that produced many puzzles, including the reality that many more Rwandans died in those 100 days than the number of Tutsis (the target of the genocide) counted in the most recent census. This meant that, in addition to the genocide, there was much political violence that had also taken place, causing as much or more death and destruction.

So, Davenport and Stam became quickly labeled as genocide-deniers because they could, well, do simple math. But their project became far more than that, as the piece indicates--a dogged and potentially dangerous search for any kind of data to tell them who was where when and what happened. They ultimately found that violence occurred in three places--where the Hutu government/extremists held control (FAR, Interahamwe), where the invading Tutsi army (RPF, which now serves as the government of Rwanda) were expanding their control, and where these forces met. It turns out that while the genocidaires committed more of the violence, killing Hutus and Tutsis, the RPF did a significant share of the killing. No wonder that the current government of Rwanda, led by Paul Kagame, has been trying to repress this research once it figured out that the scholars actually had heaps of integrity, skills, and determination.

I have followed this research for a quite a while since I know Christian and have met Allan once or twice. It has been a fascinating tale told over beers at a series of conferences. Read the linked piece and then go to [I seem to having problems with the quicktime graphics today, but has worked in the past] There is a heap of information there, including graphics that show where the violence occurred and who controlled the land under which the violence took place. I kept asking Christian about what happened in the areas controlled by the French interveners---and now you can see for yourself.

And by the way, some of this research was, indeed, funded by the National Science Foundation. I wonder if Senator Tom Coburn has checked out this project when he considered Political Science unworthy of funding. This project alone undermines Coburn's assertions.

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