During the last national leadership retreat, President Paul Kagame castigated leaders who hardly interact with those they lead and prefer to conduct their business from the comfort of their offices.
One district executive secretary has taken that admonishment literally; he is moving around villages with a small tent and pitches camp when night falls.
He deserves credit that he has come up with a cheap and practical idea. But questions linger on that PR stunt; is he playing for the cameras or the camping strategy is actually bearing fruit? It is one thing to get close to the people and another actually solving the day-to-day problems afflicting them.
That is exactly what the new approach to the district performance contracts (Imihigo) will come to address. It is not meeting the targets one sets but the end results and the positive impact they have on the people that count.
In the past, districts were more obsessed with positioning themselves at the top of the ladder in a hotly contested competition. Many resorted to taking shortcuts and inflating figures, just so that they will be among the “best” and go home with a trophy after the iconic photo with the Head of State.
This time Imihigo will be pegged on the National Strategy for Transformation – the country’s development agenda – not building white elephants. What is the use of building a health centre if it is not equipped?
Simply because the Mayor promised to build it is not enough. It should come to address issues such as reducing malnutrition and accessible healthcare.
But in order to make Imihigo a relevant catalyst to improve the people’s welfare, there is need for their participation; where their short and long term needs are linked to the nation’s development strategy. That is what “getting close to the people” means. Camping is not enough.