Decentralization has, since 2000, been a key policy of the Government of Rwanda (GoR) for promoting good governance, service delivery, and national development. By developing and implementing the decentralization policy, the GoR is not only doing what is right but rather doing what was a result of popular demand by the Rwandan population.
Implemented in phases, along well defined decentralization implementation plans (DIPs), the original decentralization objectives have been achieved albeit to varying degrees. Despite impressive achievements, challenges still stand in the way of effective decentralization. Moreover, new demands have come up as the country takes new long strides into the future. This explains why the Policy has had to be updated to keep it focused and responsive to the new challenges, aspirations, and ambitions of the Government and people of Rwanda.
The Present status
The last decade of decentralisation implementation has resulted in major positive developments in participatory democratization and local accountability but still a lot needs to be done to reach where we want to be in terms of democratic, participatory local governance, and effective citizen-centered service delivery:
Political decentralization: Rwandans now have their vote power and leaders are more sensitive to the people that elect them. Turn up in the 2010 series of elections was very high i.e. 97% for Presidential and 93% for Local elections. The challenge is that in some areas, the distance between the people and their leaders is still wide. Building confidence and trust among citizens and their leaders understandably requires time and sustained effort. Mobilizing citizens to participate in affairs affecting them will take a two pronged approach: one, sensitizing the citizens on their rights to participate, and two, mobilizing and obligating local government leadership to create conducive environment for citizen’s participation, dialogue and accepting criticism.
Administrative decentralization: Local Government structures are in place and functioning with institutional systems and staffing levels that are comparable to those in Central Government. The way they deliver services with cost-efficiency is perhaps the most impressive. In every domain, including public financial management, all 30 districts can be regarded as having basic competences. However, they are not yet fully functioning as strong local governments capable of effectively initiating, planning, financing and implementing service delivery programmes and accounting for resources in a timely and accurate manner.