Kampala, 17 May 2013
Under the theme, ‘Developmental Local Government: Putting Local Government at the Heart of Development,’ President Kagame’s keynote address at the three day Commonwealth Local Government Conference centred on local government units being engines of socio-economic transformation.
Sharing Rwanda’s example, President Kagame said:
“In Rwanda we believe the principal role of any government – central or local – to be transformational, improving the well-being of citizens and empowering them to participate fully in their development.”
The President noted that the country allocates up to 15 per cent of its domestic revenues to local governments, besides additional resources for specific community projects. He further said that Rwanda had attained a degree of food security and reduced poverty by embracing an effective decentralisation system:
“Over a five year period, Rwanda has reduced poverty levels by about 13 per cent and raised one million people out of poverty, was proof about the effectiveness of local government as the base for both national and local levels.”
The President further pointed that, through decentralisation, Rwandans were empowered to fully participate in planning, implementing and managing their own development processes. President Kagame also pointed out that institutionalised accountability and transparency through several measures such as a peer review mechanism, open governance days, citizens’ report card and governance scorecard, as well as the public evaluation of performance contracts:
“These measures have given decentralised entities more budget autonomy and increased the share of their contributions to the national economy.”
President Kagame explained that home-grown initiatives such as Imihigo (performance contracts) ensured responsiveness to local needs and timely delivery of services, while promoting accountability and transparency. Other initiatives the President singled out included; Girinka (one-cow-per-family), Vision Umurenge Programme (VUP), which promote a cashless economy, Umuganda (community service), Imihigo ; annual ranking of districts in terms of meeting their own priorities and Abunzi arbitration of local disputes by volunteer mediators:
“Citizens of our respective countries expect and deserve better and more efficient services. They aspire to better lives and are prepared to work hard to achieve that. It is the duty of local government authorities to harness their aspirations, energy and resolve so as to create the right conditions for the realisation of their collective ambitions. When we do that, we shall have written an important chapter in the history of our countries and of the Commonwealth.”
During the conference, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, Carl Wright, handed President Kagame a report on the assessment of local democracy and local governance in Rwanda.
Wright said Rwanda had performed well in all the indicators, which were developed before the country became the 54th member of the Commonwealth in 2009.
On the sidelines of the bi-annual conference, President Kagame also paid a courtesy call to President Museveni, met with UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark and was presented with a gift by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, Carl Wright.