Rwanda is one of the countries that have managed to establish an efficient and effective decentralisation model that other countries in the region can draw lessons from.
Addressing a meeting of regional local government ministers, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) Carl Wright said that Rwanda’s comprehensive decentralisation programme should be emulated by its neighbours.
He noted that the country has been able to implement a successful decentralisation programme where local communities have been empowered to elect their own leaders from the grassroots level and also be part of decision making process.
“Rwanda’s experience is highly relevant to all of East Africa and indeed beyond. It holds many useful lessons and gives valuable examples and good practical policies,” Wright said.
He noted that the decentralisation programme provides a comprehensive overview of how the country has been able to significantly empower local communities to elect their leaders and also implement socio-economic and poverty reduction programmes.
The two-day meeting organised under the auspices of Commonwealth Local CLGF is aimed at discussing the findings of a study carried out by Initiative Consultants, on the state of local governance in the region.
According to Wright, the 108-page report will help countries in the region tackle the challenges still facing decentralisation processes, mainly in the areas of financing, inclusive service delivery and capacity building.
In his keynote address, the Minister of Local Government, James Musoni, highlighted the country’s journey towards building an efficient and effective decentralisation process beginning with the decentralisation policy in 2000.
“When Rwanda embarked on implementing its decentralisation policy in 2000, we had just emerged from an unspeakable war and genocide,”
“The post-war government inherited a country whose social, political, and economic fabric had been completely shattered,” Musoni said
He added that the pre-genocide government implemented a highly centralised top-down system where communities had little or nothing to say on issues that affected them most.
However, the 2000 decentralisation policy which is under implementation in phases, has changed all this and now masses are fully integrated in the process.
“The first phase that ran from 2001 to 2005 saw the promulgation of enabling laws, establishment of service delivery structures, and the first ever democratically elected local government leadership put in place,” Musoni said.
“The second phase that ran from 2006 to 2010 was a turning point in the Rwandan decentralisation agenda. Institutional and organisational restructuring of local governments was carried out to better deliver their mandates,” he added.
Musoni said that financial and human resources have since improved significantly, while collaboration between the public, private and civil society have been enhanced through Joint Action Development Forums (JADFs).
He noted that decentralisation has contributed greatly to the attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Among the challenges cited at the meeting were limited financing of local governments as well as limited capacity.