Genocide GIS

Project Information

The Genocide GIS combines geographic information along with images, text, and statistical data. This integration of mapping technology with genocide research and data will provide an innovative means of analyzing and interpreting genocide occurrences, both historic and contemporary. By merging recent technological innovations in web based mapping programs with more traditionally styled information, the Genocide GIS will provide a multi-layered source of information on this destructive form of collective political behavior.

Looking at examples of genocide through a geographic lens allows one to visualize and better understand some of the geographic, political, and even climatological dimensions of genocide. In 2003 violence began in Darfur when several revolutionary groups were formed and began attacking government forces and police stations. These groups were formed from members of several tribes that had long been discriminated against and marginalized by the government in Khartoum. Predictably, the government reacted with extreme measures and began a campaign of extermination that has relied heavily on various paramilitary groups known collectively as the Janjaweed. The roots of the violence, however, go deeper than 2003 and relate to a long-term drought that has afflicted the Darfur region since the 1980’s. Looking at the map interface, it quickly becomes apparent how arid the region is and how water might become an issue around which conflict can erupt, as is the case in the Darfur. Many of the Janjaweed militias have been recruited from the drier and more affected northern part of the Darfur, while most of the victims have been from the tribes in the southern part of the land. The Darfur and the Sudan are on the eastern edge of the Sahara desert and are profoundly influenced by that geographic reality. Climate and geography, in other words, have helped create the genocidal violence and have shaped how it has played out and the GIS imagery helps reveal these aspects of the conflict.

Similarly, a geographic reference allows one to better understand the reasons for the violence in the eastern half of the Congo and how it connects to the Rwandan genocide. Since the mid 1990’s, this part of the Congo has been wracked with a great deal of violence that continues to this day. The violence has claimed up to five million victims and displaced another million people into IDP and refugee camps. When looking at a map, the connection between this violence and the Rwandan genocide become clear. Rwanda and the Congo (then Zaire) share a common border and during the genocide of 1994 many Rwandans fled across the border into refugee camps. At first, these refugees included members of the targeted Tutsi minority, but as the genocidal Hutu government of Rwanda began losing its civil war, many perpetrators also began fleeing into the very same camps their former victims had escaped to. These refugee camps quickly became hotbeds of violence as the former genocidaires began terrorizing the camps and even raiding back across the border into Rwanda itself, which was now ruled by a new government. Finally, the Rwandan army of the new regime invaded in 1996 and provoked a round of fighting that destabilized the entire Congo basin and led to continuous fighting that has persisted to the present day. The conflict in Congo, therefore, owes a great deal to an accident of geography that put it next door to the genocide in Rwanda and to the exodus of Rwandans into refugee camps that had been set up across the border. Users of the GRP GIS will be able to clearly visualize how genocides can affect other nations, especially those that neighbor on the country engaged in genocide. For these kinds of issues, the GIS maps will be provided with informational icons that correspond not only to the massacres during the genocide itself, but also refugee camps across the border in the Congo.