New wave of mayoral exits hits local govt

Four districts have been hit by high-profile exits after three mayors, six vice mayors and an executive secretary dramatically quit or were sacked.

It all started with Ngororero District’s vice mayors and executive secretary who tendered their resignations on Monday citing personal failings, before Musanze mayor and both his deputies were shown the exit door by the district Council on Tuesday over gross misconduct.

Then as news of these exits was still filtering through it emerged that Karongi mayor and both his deputies had also stepped down citing failure to steer the district forward, while Muhanga mayor also quit offering similar reasons.

By press time, the affected districts were still in the process to install interim leaders pending by-elections.

While it’s too early to predict the scale of this wave of resignations, broader mass exits at the top echelon of district administrators have taken place previously mostly due to missed development targets.

A source in local government circles intimated to The New Times that more departures were expected from a couple of other districts. The source said similar changes were expected in Burera and Gisagara districts.

“You should expect more departures,” the source said.

It is worth noting that most of such resignations in the past were largely attributed to ‘personal reasons’, with the District Councils (the oversight organ) barely offering any details although it was generally held that these were forced resignations triggered by incompetence.

District mayors and vice mayors are elected officials and constitute the District Executive Committee. They are answerable to the District Council, also comprised of elected officials.

Musanze sackings

In Musanze, Northern Province, Jean Damascène Habyarimana resigned as the mayor over a litany of issues, including suspected criminal offences such as corruption, according to the district Council president Eng. Emile Abayisenga.

Abayisenga told The New Times yesterday that the now-former mayor was already the subject of investigation by the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) for alleged irregularities related to the issuance of public tenders.

Sacked along with the mayor are former vice mayors Marie Claire Uwamariya (Social Affairs) and Augustin Ndabereye (Finance and Economic Development), who were also accused of gross misconduct.

Uwamariya was, among others, dismissed for defaulting on payment of rent for the house she lives in and failing to facilitate transfer of ownership of a car she previously owned to a new buyer, which amounts to abuse of office and a violation of the leadership code of ethics, according to Eng. Abayisenga.

Asked about the grounds for the sacking of Ndabereye as vice mayor for finance and economic development, the Council president said the former had, among others, been involved in criminal tendencies, including battering his wife for which he had been arrested last Friday.

Ndabereye allegedly assaulted her wife leaving her for dead.

The three officials were also culpable for failing to lead the implementation of the Musanze Master Plan, Abayisenga said.

“The decision was timely…these are not the kind of behaviours and conduct befitting of a leader and we could not tolerate it,” he told our correspondent in Musanze.

By press time Emmanuel Ntirenganya had been named the interim mayor.

Karongi

In Karongi, Western Province, François Ndayisaba resigned from his position as mayor, along with his deputies Drocelle Mukashema (Social Affairs), and Espérance Bagwire (Finance and Economic Development) over what the district’s Council described as inability to deliver on their responsibilities.

Frederic Mutangana, Chairperson of Karongi District Council, said the trio tendered their resignation to the Council on Tuesday.

“We examined the reasons for their resignation and agreed that they had fallen short in several areas,” he told The New Times.

Pressed on some of the areas in which the former mayor and both vice mayors had failed to deliver to expectation, he cited the fight against stunting in children, poverty reduction, housing, among others.

He also cited failure to make use of a newly constructed cross-border market which has been lying idle for about two months now.

“We understand that there are several players, including entrepreneurs, and other factors involved, but you can’t have such an important infrastructure lying idle for this long, it’s an indictment on the part of the (district’s) leadership,” he said. Council members were expected to pick an interim leader from among themselves pending a by-election.

Muhanga

In Muhanga District, Southern Province, only the Mayor, Beatrice Uwamariya, quit. Her resignation was confirmed Tuesday by the head of the district’s Council Theobald Shyaka.

Uwamariya submitted her resignation Tuesday saying that she was no longer capable of steering the district forward, Shyaka told The New Times.

She said her performance level was no longer good enough, he said, without offering details.

Uwamariya had been at the helm of the district for about four years.

Like Musanze and four other districts, Muhanga is home to a secondary city, and its leaders are essentially exposed to keen scrutiny – at least on development matters.

Ngororero

In Ngororero District, Western Province, the Mayor may have survived the wave of exits but both his deputies were not spared. Christine Kanyange, who was until yesterday the vice mayor for Finance and Economic Development, and her Social Affairs counterpart, Janvier Kuradusenge, stepped own, over what officials described as “personal failings”.

Gilbert Rukazambuga also quit as the executive secretary.

Jean Pierre Nshimyumuremyi, the Public Relations, Media and Communication Officer of Ngororero District, confirmed the three tendered their resignation letters to the District Council on Monday.

The vice mayors, Nshimyumuremyi said, blamed ‘personal weakness’ for the decision to throw in the towel.

The executive secretary also cited personal limitations, he added.

The New Times established that during a retreat of the district leadership held on August 22-23, it had been found out that there were some resolutions related to the development of the district that had not been implemented.

As a result, a source said, the vice mayors and executive secretary were found responsible and they owned up to the failings.

‘Can’t afford to get foot off the gas’

The latest mass resignations of local government officials come weeks after the Government called off the signing of the 2019/2020 performance contracts (best known as ‘Imihigo’) for districts.

Speaking to The New Times in the wake of the resignations yesterday, the Director of Rwanda Women’s Network, Mary Balikungeri, said resignation is the right thing to do when a leader fails to deliver on their responsibilities and commitments.

“This country has come a long way and has commitments to deliver on,” she said. “When a leader is unable to perform in a way that facilitates the achievement of the goals we have set for ourselves, then they should step aside and give a chance to others who are committed to the cause…we all need to be doing our best in our respective areas.”

Balikungeri, who chairs Gatsibo District’s Joint Action Development Forum, or JAF, a platform that brings together development partners at the district level, added: “We cannot afford to take the foot off the gas, we must all take our responsibilities seriously.”

Efforts to get a comment from the Local Government minister Prof. Anastase Shyaka were fruitless as he neither returned our calls nor responded to our inquiries.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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