Kigali is hosting the sixth General Assembly of the African Ombudsman and Mediation Association (AOMA), bringing together members from over 40 countries on the continent.
Top on the agenda are deliberations to advance efforts aimed at promoting transparency and accountable governance to drive Africa’s much-talked about transformation and economic development.
Members observed that currently many African countries are characterised by lack of accountability, undemocratic practices in public institutions, and lack of respect for gender equality.
“Yet, these principles are the basis of good governance which is a prerequisite for sustainable development and the transformation we aspire to achieve under the agenda 2063,” Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the organisation’s First President, said.
Mkhwebane is also the Public Protector of South Africa.
At the moment, not all African countries have ombudsman and mediation institutions. There are about 40 countries in Africa that have such institutions.
These institutions are believed to play a critical role in advancing the principles upon which good governance can be achieved.
Rwanda’s Minister of Justice, Johnston Busingye, urged African countries that do not have those institutions to establish them, highlighting that their role in promoting human rights and good governance is unprecedented.
“There is everything to gain and nothing to lose,” he noted.
The assembly is running under the theme: “The Role of the Ombudsman/Mediators in Promoting Transparency and Accountable Governance in Africa”.
Members believe accountability should focus on the ability to account for the allocation, use, and control of public assets in accordance with legally accepted standards.
Busingye, who is also the Attorney General, told participants that citizens should be highly engaged if leaders are to be truly held accountable.
“Only the power of the people can ensure there is accountability. People need to be informed and understand. It is an interactive process where the bottom-up is more important than the top-down,” he said.
To hold leaders accountable, he added that ombudsman should set up review sessions, do regular follow up, monitor and check how they are doing, and check how citizens perceive their conduct.
The theme of the meeting is in line with the dedication of the year 2018 by the African Union to “winning the fight against corruption as sustainable path to Africa’s transformation”.
Usta Kaitesi, the acting Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Governance Board, said that lack of transparency in many of Africa’s institutions continue to expose African citizens to corruption.
“Corruption undermines the development of our people and effective use of resources. It is, therefore, how much we make the fight against corruption stronger,” she noted.
While Africa continue to be touted as a continent with reach resources, its people are the poorest.
Kaitesi said it was fair to deliberate on where African resources go and what needs to move African people from poverty, indicating that building strong institutions that hold leaders accountable was important to reverse this trend.
She shared Rwanda’s experience in promoting accountability, transparency and efficiency in institutions.
Kaitesi highlighted the annual governance scorecard, media barometer, among other initiatives that has made the country achieve what has been achieved today.
The meeting ends on Friday.