Up to 23 local government officials have quit their positions this week in mass exits that swept through a dozen districts across the country.
They include four district mayors (Nyamasheke, Karongi, Muhanga, and Musanze), while the other departures included vice mayors, executive secretaries, and division managers.
Most of the affected districts are from Western Province (Karongi, Ngororero, Nyamasheke, Rubavu, Rutsiro), while Southern and Northern provinces each saw two districts – Muhanga and Gisagara, and Burera and Musanze, respectively – lose some of their senior leaders in the latest mass departures.
In Eastern Province, only Ngoma District has so far lost an elected leader – the vice mayor in charge of Finance and Economic Development – while Bugesera District showed its executive secretary the exit door, with Kayonza also firing its division manager.
Most of those who resigned cited personal failings as the reason behind their decision to quit but some were openly sacked by their district council over different issues, including alleged corruption and other forms of gross misconduct.
Government officials said it was normal for leaders to step aside when they fall short.
Anastase Shyaka, the Minister for Local Government and Social Affairs, linked the exits “accountability deficits, failure to respond to citizens' needs and inefficiency in delivery are the underlying causes”.
He described the departures as “a usual process in a country like Rwanda, firmly grounded in the principles of good governance, anchored on decentralization and citizen centeredness; democracy and accountability.”
A reliable source familiar with the latest exits said they were largely informed by assessments carried out by district councils over a period of time, while some were triggered by criminal investigations.
This is not the first time that the country sees mass exits of district leaders as more than half of the 30 district mayors and their deputies that came into office following the 2016 elections have since been forced out or resigned.
Dozens of other district leaders have also previously stepped down in successive five-year local government electoral mandates as the Government increasingly sought to accelerate anti-poverty and development efforts.
Mayors and their deputies are answerable to the people through their respective district’s Council, a strategic organ composed of elected officials who do not serve full-time.