Rwanda joined the rest of Africa to celebrate the Africa Day of Decentralisation and Local Governance.
The national celebrations took place in Gakenke District, Northern Province on Wednesday. The day was marked by different activities, including exhibition of products and services in an open day of the Joint Action Development Forum of Gakenke District.
Deogratias Nzamwita, the Gakenke District mayor said that showing people what is being done for them is part of good governance.
He stressed the importance of decentralisation, and instruments like client charter books that are used to assess the quality of service delivery.
“Qualified workers also helped in decentralisation. For instance, at the sector level are bachelor’s degree holders while those at cell must have finished at least high school,” he said.
Prof. Anastase Shyaka, the CEO of Rwanda Governance Board, said “the day reminds us the big step our country has taken in decentralisation. It enabled us to have a people centered government,” he said.
“The rationale for decentralisation is development. Decentralising power, good governance and development is the essence. If you look at the way poverty was reduced and how different sectors were developed,
these are outcomes of this policy. Problems are there, but benefits are more significant than problems,” he said.
Citizens hailed the policy saying that it eased service delivery.
“We used to spend the whole day or even a week visiting offices and often left without being served. This bred corruption and lured many who wanted quick services to bribe. But now there are few or no circumstances that can tempt you to offer a bribe,” said Leonard Nkezamihigo, 75, a resident.
Martin Dusabimana, a resident of Nemba sector in Gakenke District, said with decentralisation, services such as land registration, marriage certificates, among others, are acquired at sectors unlike before.
“We walked very long distances to the district and sometimes we could not get the service we wanted as there were many bureaucratic processes. But now administrators are closer to us. You can even call them before you go to their offices, they tell you what you are required to bring.
‘‘Our leaders consult with us in many things more often than not. For instance, sector officials meet with us at our cells every Wednesday. Many issues are solved there. We are satisfied with the services we get,” he said.
Annonciata Nyirampanabumva said women are no longer dependent on their husbands.
“We are very happy because services have been decentralised. We no longer fetch water in remote places, hospitals are nearer, among others.”
Decentralisation played a key role in development since 2001, when the government made changes in governance and delegated powers to local levels.
Despite notable achievements, some residents say several challenges remain.
Citizens say they have more faith in central government than local government while some people report poor service delivery, favouritism, contempt, mistrust and bribery at the grassroots.
Emmanuel Ngendahimana, another resident, said everything is relatively okey at the sector level and above, but at the village level things are not going well.
“Leaders are not solving our problems. They are reluctant to solve our problems and when you don’t befriend them, you will hardly get a service from them,” he claimed.
And Prof. Shyaka admits that a lot still needs to be done.
“We have made a big step forward but we are not there yet. “Having this policy doesn’t mean all leaders are spotless. They cannot become angels,” he said.
“The policy helped build confidence among the people. Now they can denounce leaders and expose their mistakes. Citizens are empowered enough to protect their rights,” he said.