Arrangements to establish new Ubudehe social stratification are underway. The public applauds this practice by the Government, arguing that it upholds values of unity and creates a culture of mutual development.
However, objections by citizens on the stature and process of categorisation of people under the different categories have been growing. Questions have been raised on the reliability, transparency and fairness of the entire process.
Fionah Uwase, a resident of Kabuga Sector in Kicukiro District, wonders why even after thorough inquiries by local leaders, people still end up wrongly placed in the different categories.
“Many people complain about this issue and to be honest if one looks closer, these people are not complaining for the sake of it, their standards of living don’t fit the categories they are put in,” she says.
Uwase points out that one of the things that leads to this is because leaders at times do not consider factors that matter in the first place.
“People shouldn’t be judged by how they dress or carry themselves in society. Our leaders should look deeper and know how people live. What job do I have? How much do I earn, what responsibilities do I have regardless of how much I could be earning? All of these are factors that we need to look into,” she says.
Jean de Dieu Munyankindi, a motorcyclist, echoed similar sentiments. He contends that he has never understood what criteria is followed when people are being placed in these categories.
Munyankindi is in category three and doesn’t understand why he was placed there.
“As a motorcyclist I survive hand to mouth. It’s not that I own a house or any other asset. All I have is this motorcycle from which I struggle to make ends meet. My wish is not to be in lower categories because I am a very ambitious man, all I want is to be where I can afford survival,” he says.
He is of the view that people who are placed in category three and four should be those who have sound assets to their names for example land or houses.
Munyankindi applauds the fact that the Government takes time to review these categories, saying that it is the right platform to address the loopholes that are still existing in the system.
“I remember the last time when they were putting us in these categories, everyone was classified accordingly. This was at the village level. However, when the files were taken to the cell level, everything was jumbled up, some of us were given different categories, we don’t know how this happened.”
On how this affects citizens, Munyankidi says that people fail to access the benefits that come with these lower categories.
“You find that parents fail to educate their children because they can’t afford school fees but because they are in the wrong category they can’t access scholarships.”
It is because of such mishaps that Munyankindi calls onto leaders to be vigilant and that in cases where people need to rectify such errors, the system should be simple with less bureaucracy.
What then needs to be done?
The Vice Mayor in charge of Social Affairs in Karongi District, Drocella Mukashema, says the prevailing challenges call for putting people’s views first when it comes to how best the entire process should be carried out this time.
“We need to see people placed in their apt categories. This time we need to know what people want, what requirements they wish to have in each category. With this I believe such challenges will be addressed.”
Mukashema commends the Government’s ability to review these categories after a certain period of time, saying that it gives a chance to reflect on the possible changes that would have occurred in the preceding years.
“With this we have a chance to know the current state of citizens, if they are still fit to be in the categories they were placed in. We also get a chance to address issues such as poverty, we look at the rates and check whether they have increased or decreased, then look for ways of dealing with this,” she says.
Apollinaire Mupiganyi, Executive Director at Transparency International Rwanda, says people should know that Ubudehe as proposed by the Government is built on Rwandan culture of mutual support that “our ancestors were using to support their neighbours who were in economic need.”
Ubudehe was set up as a home grown solution to address issues of extreme poverty; however, Mupiganyi observes that there are different expectations by citizens and policy makers.
With this, he says, there is need to remind the public the objectives of this great practice, which he says is built on mutual support to allow advancement rather than getting benefits without effort and will to advance.
On addressing gaps in terms of citizen categorisation, Mupiganyi says all efforts should be made to collect views and ideas from all categories of citizens because people in one way or another are affected by this issue.
“I would suggest that, beyond public hearing during community meetings and radio and TV talks, there is need to collect views and ideas from specific categories such as people living with disabilities, youth, women, private sector, civil society organisations, and local leaders.”
“Obviously, the Government alone can’t achieve all the above requirements considering the limited time and the needed consultations. There is hence need to join efforts with stakeholders to ensure that the new Ubudehe categorisation really reflects citizens’ priorities but, more importantly, dedicate enough time to educate citizens on the objectives of Ubudehe,” he adds.
Mupiganyi points out the need to provide policy makers with accurate data to provide adequate support to vulnerable groups and improve their economic status for development.
While it is clear how Ubudehe categorisation and social protections schemes have contributed to the reduction of extreme poverty and poverty in the country, he believes that the impact would be greater if the implementation was done as envisioned under the Ubudehe spirit.
“Our expectation is that the process will involve as much as possible the ideas from the citizens to inform the new Ubudehe categorisation. We are very encouraged by the initiative of the Ministry of Local Government who have really prioritised this review and the consultations with a broad range of citizens and stakeholders who are involved in one way or another in the social protection sector.”