In the past three months, four district mayors and their deputies resigned citing personal reasons.
Latest among this spate of resignations is the Mayor of Gatsibo, Ambrose Ruboneza, his deputy for economic affairs Isaiah Habarurema, and the District Advisory Council president, Innocent Munyaneza.
The trio threw in the towel on the same day the mayor of Rwamagana, Nehemie Uwimana, and the vice-mayor in charge of economic affairs, Francesca Mutiganda, tendered in their resignations.
A month earlier in November, Gasabo’s Willy Ndizeye, and his two deputies, Jean Claude Munara (in charge of finance and economic planning) and Marie Louise Uwimana (social affairs) had resigned.
The officials from the three districts attributed their resignations to failure to deliver on the set targets under the performance contracts commonly known as imihigo.
Protais Murayire of Kirehe District resigned mid October after his leadership style turned out to be questionable following his attempt to block his subordinates from raising any complaints during a meeting with the minister for Local Government, Francis Kaboneka, as he visited the district.
Speaking to The New Times, the former mayor of Rwamagana, Uwimana, attributed his resignation to failure to rise in rankings of imihigo in the past four years.
“My district had never made it beyond the 22nd position despite all the efforts I had invested. Rather than remain in the last position, I opted to step aside and pave way for new blood,” Uwimana said.
In 2009/10, Rwamagana scored 53 per cent emerging 24th. The following fiscal year, the district scored 80 per cent but remained in the same position.
In the 2011/12 fiscal year, the district scored 83 per cent but in that same year, all districts scored about 80 per cent.
The fiscal year that followed raised concerns since all districts were scoring way too high. Rwamagana garnered 94 per cent but still emerged 25th.
This is the time President Paul Kagame questioned the methodology used in evaluating districts since least performing district (Gicumbi) had scored 90 per cent while some districts like Karongi and Kicukiro won themselves a 97 per cent score.
Percentages went down in the recent 2013/14 imihigo with Rwamagana among the least performers with 71 per cent in the 29th position.
Uwimana made up his mind to step down. His situation is no different from that of the former mayor of Gatsibo, Ruboneza, who also cited failure to deliver for his resignation.
Although he could not be reached for a comment, Ruboneza had previously told The New Times that his stepping down was in public interest. Gatsibo had consistently performed poorly in Imihigo rankings over the years.
“We sat down and decided to step down. Our duty to serve the public had lost meaning when we were ranked last in performance contracts,” Ruboneza told The New Times upon resignation.
To some observers, Ruboneza’s resignation wasn’t a surprise as his district had trailed in performance in this year’s performance contract implementation.
“Despite the fact that we had done a lot in infrastructure and agriculture development, we lost public confidence due to poor ranking. It was thus a wise decision for us to resign,” he said.
Gatsibo’s worst performance in terms of percentages was marked in 2009/10 with a 51 per cent score while in the latest evaluations, the district garnered 70.7 per cent.
Figures indicate that Gasabo District, despite hosting a bigger part of the capital city, continued to perform dismally in the execution of Imihigo.
In the recent report on Imihigo implementation published in September, Gasabo emerged 28th out of 30 districts.
This yardstick was the basis for the district leadership to step down.
Three of the four mayors that resigned in the past three months were from the Eastern Province districts of Kirehe Gatsibo and Rwamagana.
Although the vacuum may raise eyebrows, the Eastern Province Governor, Odette Uwamariya, commended the resignations.
“Apart from the former mayor of Kirehe who resigned over indiscipline, the rest cited personal reasons in their resignation letters. However, when it comes to performance, the decision they took was very democratic. If you cannot deliver, then you should step aside,” she said.
In her observation, Uwamariya noted that the other two, (Ruboneza of Gatsibo and Uwimana of Rwamagana) were performers but moving at a slow pace.
“If you make a commitment you must ensure you achieve it; we are craving for faster development and that is why as a country, we need leaders who have a sense of urgency and quality. You may see several drastic changes in future in the local government as a way of ensuring change to achieve more,” she said.
Although she did not detail the changes likely to happen, she pointed out that it’s the citizens that evaluate the leaders they elect in office.
“We are tasked with serious responsibilities; we cannot afford to move slowly whatsoever. These resignations should not be looked at in terms of individuals but impact…individuals will always come and go but systems remain. We must build systems that will impact positively on the lives of the people. It’s the best way to ensure sustainable accountability,” she added.
Observers of local government operations say the mass resignation is mainly due to failure to maintain the pace with the country’s development.
The Director of Cabinet in the Prime Minister’s office, Amb. James Kimonyo, said when someone decides to step aside before the end of their term, the minimum someone can assume is that that person has failed to deliver to expectations.
In singling out some of the issues that led to the resignation of some leaders, Kimonyo pointed out that Gasabo was undergoing a serious problem of poor service delivery.
“Their resignation was a combination of complaints filed by residents and performance,” he said.
Kimonyo hinted on a likely change of approach in evaluating districts, saying after President Kagame called for a review of evaluation approach, there will be extensive assessment into every district’s performance in components that form the nation’s life.
“We don’t want this to be about marks, we want it to be about impact,” he said.
The way performance contracts are done is that each district sets its own targets and is supposed to align them with the means at its disposal. Each mayoral contract is subject to independent evaluation. At the end of the evaluations, districts are ranked in performance league tables.
The best performers are rewarded while those at the bottom are usually encouraged to ensure they improve in their performance.
It becomes particularly difficult when a district turns out to be a consistent poor performer and local people, unwilling to put up with such leadership begin to grumble.
Generally, Imihigo are meant to realise goals set under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the locally driven Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy 2 (EDPRS2) and the broader Vision 2020, which details key targets the country seeks to attain over the medium to long term development in the pursuit to become a middle-income economy where every citizen should at least have an annual per capita income of $1,240 by 2020.
Districts are measured in three major pillars, which are; Economic Development Pillar; Social Development Pillar; and Governance and Justice Pillar.