Wave of exits reaches four more districts as six officials quit

Six other senior officials from four districts have been forced out of office or resigned, The New Times has learnt.

They join a growing list of district leaders that have dramatically exited in the last few days bringing the total number of departures to 16 across eight districts in three days.

The latest to step down include Gisagara District Vice Mayor for Finance and Economic Development Jean-Paul Hanganimana, and Burera Vice Mayor for Social Affairs Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana.

Others include Rutsiro District Vice Mayor for Social Affairs Jean-Hermans Butasi and Executive Secretary Tharcisse Niyonzima.

Rubavu is the latest district to be hit by the latest wave of local government exits with both the district’s Vice Mayors Janvier Murenzi (Finance and Economic Planning) and Marie-Grâce Uwampayizina (Social Affairs) expected to quit during a Council meeting that was scheduled Wednesday morning.

Earlier, top leaders from Musanze (mayor and both deputies), Karongi (mayor and his two deputies), Muhanga (mayor), and Ngororero (both vice mayors and the executive secretary) were either sacked by their respective district councils or resigned from their duties.

Anastase Shyaka, the Minister for Local Government and Social Affairs, late Tuesday voiced his support for the exits, linking them to “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.”

In most of the cases, the officials in question tendered their resignation letters to the respective district’s Council, citing shortcomings in their ability to deliver on their responsibilities.

But Musanze District took a different route with the Council sacking all members of the Executive Committee (mayor and both vice mayors), accusing them of corruption, ethical breaches, physical assaults and other forms of gross misconduct.

Indeed the now former Mayor Jean-Damascène Habyarimana and Vice Mayor in charge of Finance and Economic Planning Augustin Ndabereye are under criminal investigations for alleged corruption and wife battering respectively. Ndabereye was arrested last Friday over the matter.

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.

The ongoing 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’) at the last minute.

Speaking to The New Times on Tuesday, the Director of Rwanda Women’s Network, Mary Balikungeri, said: “This country has come a long way and has commitments to deliver on.

“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 (JAF) added: “We cannot afford to take the foot off the gas, we must all take our responsibilities seriously.”

The latest wave of district exits has so far affected districts in Western, Northern and Southern provinces, with none reported in Eastern Province or the City of Kigali.

editor@newtimesrwanda.co.rw

ADVERTISEMENT