By Steven Muvunyi
Rwanda has made tremendous achievements in development and lives of citizens were transformed due to the decentralisation policy that was initiated in 2001, according to Prof. Anastase Shyaka.
The chief executive of Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) was, yesterday, addressing journalists about the celebration of the Africa Day on Decentralisation and Local Governance that Rwanda will be marking for the second time today.
The celebration will be held in Gakenke District under the theme, “Decentralisation as a pillar for poverty reduction, public service delivery and citizen participation.”
“Decentralisation policy has played a pivotal role in the development of this country. It helped in empowering people. It is the foundation of development of our country,” said Prof. Shyaka.
He said the policy has spurred the progress of the country.
“After decentralisation, we moved faster than before. It has facilitated participatory and people-centered governance and improved homegrown solutions,” he said.
According to Prof. Shyaka, programmes that transformed lives such as Girinka and VUP were smoothened by local government operations.
Decentralisation had three five-year phases: The 2001-2006 phase of restructuring and reduction of administrative entities from prefectures and communes into districts and sectors, respectively.
The second, 2006-2011, was meant to entrench decentralised local government structures, while the third phase – 2011-2015 – sought to reinforce homegrown solutions through local government.
The current phase of decentralisation is working to consolidate what has been achieved thus far in decentralisation.
According to Prof. Shyaka, among the indicators of decentralisation include the increase of the budget allocated to local government.
“Thirty per cent of the budget now goes to districts while it used to be less than 7 per cent 10 years ago. The national budget is bigger and the allocation to district is higher,” Shyaka said.
Citizen participation is measured in decision making, which is as high as 90 per cent, finding solutions for themselves, the rate is at 80 per cent, while in planning, implementation and evaluation, the rate remains very low, according to Shyaka.
He said citizen participation in Imihigo is below 50 per cent in 25 out of 30 districts.
Amb. Fatuma Ndangiza, deputy chief executive in charge of governance decentralisation, good governance and research at RGB, said citizens are slightly more involved in implementation of programmes and policies than planning and evaluation.
“That’s why in evaluation of performance contracts (Imihigo), 10 marks are reserved for citizens through citizen report cards as well as Imihigo for each household to ensure citizen participation in planning, implementation and evaluation,” she said, adding that districts that perform well are those that have active citizens who participate in their governance.
“Some leaders don’t involve people in governance. That’s why the “Governance Month” was established to ensure participation of citizens,” she said.
The Africa Day on Decentralisation and Local Governance was adopted in January 2012 and is celebrated in African Union member states on August 10 every year.
Celebration on the continent
The theme adopted by the African Union for this year’s Africa Day of Decentralisation and Local Governance is “Gender, equity, and women empowerment key for achieving African’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, secretary-general of United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa), called on nations to put in place strategies to improve women’s representation in the various organs of their local governments and empowerment of rural women, which is critical to ending poverty and hunger in Africa.
“How can rural women empowerment be possible if they do not take on an active part in the management of their community? How can they take part if they are not represented in executive bodies? And more fundamentally, how can we expect their significant contribution if they have no control over the basics of farming, such as access to land, inputs and credit?” Mbassi queried.
UCLG supports the idea of striving for parity in gender representation within the political and administrative bodies of local governments of Africa.
“There is no real liberation of women without economic empowerment. Local authorities have an important role to play from this standpoint,” he said.