Special Supplement on the Achievements of the Kagame Administration’s First Term
When it comes to governance, President Paul Kagame has emphasized accountability, transparency and input from the people.
Since 1994, the government has emphasized the importance of unity and reconciliation among Rwandans, and this attitude has been maintained during the past seven years. In 2007, a policy on national unity and reconciliation was put in place. In this respect, training was organized for various categories of people – local leaders, university students, religious leaders and former combatants (Abacengezi).
From the year 2000 on, a national conference on unity and conciliation has been organized every two years, while in 2009 an international conference was held aimed at highlighting the national unity and reconciliation achievements in the ten years since the formal program came into force.
That this program is having an impact was proved a social cohesion survey conducted in 2008 by the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), which showed that Rwandans consider unity and reconciliation as highly important.
Therefore, in order to maintain and encourage social cohesion, a system of unity and reconciliation mobilizers has been put in place, consisting of 3,720 people working all over the country. The government has also conducted solidarity camps for different groups of Rwandans, in which 75,693 people have participated. In addition, 568 unity and reconciliation clubs have been put in place aimed at eradicating divisionism in schools.
In 2007, Itorero ry’igihugu was put in place with the aim of educating Rwandans on the country’s programs and sensitizing them to work in order to eradicate poverty. 159,571 Intore from different walks of life have been trained – teachers, local leaders, youth, people from the Diaspora, sector executive secretaries, coffee farmers, health collaborators, women trainers. Intore levels have also been institutionalized from the village to the sector level.
Research has been carried out and books written on unity and reconciliation. They include The origin of misunderstandings in Rwanda and how to get out of it (2003); Land wealth and unity (2003); The role of women in promoting peace and unity (2005); The role of solidarity camps in building unity and reconciliation among Rwandans (2007); Outlook of problems in the Rwandan society (2007); and History of Rwanda: correlation of Rwandans (2005-2008).
Decentralization of decision-making
The government has gradually decentralized decision-making, giving village and cell levels more responsibilities. Advisory committees at the cell and sector levels have been put in place to monitor the performance of public servants at these levels.
A weekly meeting at the cell level that involves all the residents has been institutionalized to allow residents to collectively find solutions to their problems.
A quarterly “accountability day” is organized during which residents are shown what the authorities are doing on their behalf. This program is conducted at the sector, district, provincial as well as the ministerial levels.
In 2006 the performance contract program was introduced where residents plan activities that suit them and also set achievements at the family level.
Every year surveys are conducted to understand how citizens view service provision in the country. This is mainly done through filling of citizens’ report cards and community score cards.
In addition, after the community work that is conducted on the last Saturday of every month, citizens are informed of the government programs. These talks are held at the village level, and consist among others of question and answer sessions, services announcements, explanation of development programs, as well as other activities such as voters’ registration.
In a bid to share its plans and programs with the citizens, the government has used its media arm ORINFOR to disseminate information to the public. For example, a talk show commonly known as kubaza bitera kumenya is broadcast every week on state radio and television where government officials are invited to discuss government programs and initiatives, while citizens are involved in asking questions and can also share ideas.
Apart from the talk show, the government also disseminates information through plays such as Urunana, Musekeweya to complement the government’s policy on unity and reconciliation.
The media has played an important role in explaining government programs as well as sensitizing citizens on the development programs. For instance, the poverty reduction program, Vision 2020, unity and reconciliation, security, gacaca courts, fighting genocide ideology, civil education, community work among other development and socio-development activities have been explained through the media.
At the same time, the government has gone to great lengths to ensure that the media become responsible and positive forces in society. To this end, it has trained both state and private media practitioners as well as other media stakeholders on how better to practice journalism. It has also established rules and regulations as well as ethics that govern journalism, resulting in the 2009 Media Law. As provided by the Constitution, the Media High Council was set up to promote press freedom as well as regulate media.
Moreover, the government has promoted media associations such as the Rwandan Journalists’ Association, the Press House, the Rwandan Association of Women Journalists, the Rwanda Media Ethics Association, as well as private media houses through provision of training and equipment as well as funds to encourage media professionalism.
In a bid to deal with printing problems that had handicapped operations of newspapers, a modern printing company has been set up equipped with state-of-the-art equipment. It is being used by both state and private print media.
In 2007, the Great Lakes Media Center was established to facilitate practicing journalists without an educational background in journalism to acquire basic knowledge regarding journalism.
Apart from capacity building for media practitioners, the government has also made efforts to ensure that media become accessible all around the country. To this end, radio and television antennas have been erected to ensure that Radio Rwanda and TV Rwanda can be captured on the entire territory. In addition, citizen radios have been set up in Huye, Rusizi, Rubavu, Musanze and Nyagatare.
Another important aspect is the relationship between the media and the public, which had been badly shaken during the 1994 Genocide. Therefore, in a bid to give people a better understanding of the media and knowledge of their content, more than 120 media clubs were started in schools. This program has the additional advantage to promote reading culture, debate and analysis among youth. Through this program, four schools per district are facilitated to get newspapers as well as other equipments that facilitate students to access news.
The government is also a signatory of several international accords concerning the role of media. For instance Rwanda is a signatory to Bagamoyo agreement that acknowledges the role of media in peace building.
In a bid to disseminate news about Rwanda to the outside world, there are several initiatives that have been put in place. The government has several web portals it uses for the dissemination of information, such as e-gov.rw which is used to share information among government officials; websites of public and private institutions Furthermore, the ministry of information has agreements with international media to help disseminate news and information about Rwanda.
As regards foreign relations Rwanda had several targets but among the prominent was to ensure that the effects of colonialism are eradicated for good especially those that brought about divisionism that culminated to genocide.
The main agenda towards foreign nations has consisted of explaining the root causes of lack of understanding among Rwandans with a specific emphasis on the role of colonialism in fuelling chaos. In this regard, Rwandan embassies have played an important role in denouncing lies spread about Rwanda and Rwandans. The embassies have also played the role of disseminating the real news about Rwanda in the countries they are based in, through universities, international organizations and other associations.
In promoting bilateral and multilateral cooperation, Rwanda has between 2003 and 2009signed agreements with a multitude of countries, including China, Japan, India, South Korea, United States of America, Belgium, United Kingdom, Sweden, and Holland.
Commercial ties have also been strengthened. The government has facilitated the private sector in preparing the international trade fair that takes place every year, as well as participation in international trade fairs worldwide such as Canada, Japan, USA, Kenya, Senegal, China to name but a few. Numerous commercial missions have also been organized.
Rwanda’s international image has also been significantly improved through the country’s participation in international tourism fairs, where it has regularly won awards. At the world tourism trade fair in Berlin, for instance, Rwanda has been first in Africa for three consecutive years since 2007.
Rwanda has also been a signatory to international as well bilateral agreements. In addition, the government has made major efforts in promoting the country’s regional integration by becoming a member of regional blocs such as the East African Community (EAC) as well as the Community of Eastern and Southern African States (COMESA). Since 2009, Rwanda has also become an official member of the Commonwealth.
Foreign relations also concern ties with Rwandans living abroad. To ensure that Diaspora contributes to the development and welfare of Rwanda, the government put in place a Diaspora policy which was promulgated in 2009 and has led to the Diaspora actively engaging in nation building. A good example is the One Dollar campaign aimed at providing housing for genocide orphans, which has raised more than one billion francs.
Security and sovereignty
Since 2003, the government has embarked on the program to build capacity of its security organs. It is in this regard that the government has trained 500 RDF soldiers in both short-term and long-term courses. On top of that, 700 army officers have attended military school in the country and 2100 cadet officers have been trained over five intakes. 28 cadet officers have also been sent for formation abroad, in countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, United Kingdom, USA and Greece.
The government has also invested in military equipment to professionalize the RDF. This has allowed Rwandan forces to serve in peace keeping missions, being equipped according to UN standards. Twenty-one battalions have been involved in peace-keeping missions in Sudan as well as the Comoros, for which they have received specific training.
The RDF has also collaborated with the DRC forces through joint operations such as Umoja Wetu and Kimiya which were aimed at rooting out FDLR rebels which constitute a major security concern for the region.
At the EAC level, the RDF has been involved in different activities such as the EAC military sports week as well as culture promotion which took place in 2009 in Kigali. Joint military exercises have also been conducted. The Rwandan armed forces are also actively represented in the EAC standby brigade with trainings taking place in Kenya and Djibouti
At the same time, efforts have been made to improve the capacities of the National Police. Its ranks have swollen from 3914 in 2003 to 8773 this year, and all officers received substantial training both within the country and abroad.
The police has also collaborated with their counterparts in other countries notably through Interpol, in which joint missions have been conducted. Through this process, as well as through bilateral agreements, Rwanda has exchanged criminals with neighboring countries.
In a bid to encourage citizens to actively participate in security, the government passed a law that put in place the local defense forces, which are trained every year. In addition, a community policing program was put in place at the village and sector level. Citizens were also sensitized on the importance of mutual assistance in case of crimes.
Reforms were made to the penal system, which saw increased professionalization through the training of wardens. In addition, measures were taken to reduce overcrowding in prisons, most notably through the introduction of community work (TIG) which saw part of some convicts’ sentence commuted.
Gender and family promotion
Over the past seven years, major efforts have been made to ensure and promote the wellbeing of children. The law regarding the rights of the child was reformed in 2001, and the Constitution also has provisions in this respect. Several laws have been promulgated regarding the welfare of children in orphanages as well as they way they are treated in foster homes.
Since 2004, a national children conference has been organized every year in which the young generation is given a say in matters that are of particular interest to them. All sectors have been facilitated to disseminate the resolutions from the past five conferences to children. Furthermore, an annual conference has been initiated aimed at helping children living with HIV/Aids or whose relatives are infected.
Apart from the yearly conference, children’s associations have been put in place from the village level to the district level.
Given the big number of orphans in the country, specific programs have been set up to accommodate them. For example, 14,000 orphans from former Butare, Cyangugu and Mutara have been assisted in paying their tuition fees. 8500 more children have been supported by the Global Fund in paying school fees and scholastic material. Financial assistance to orphanages since 2007 has amounted to Frw 859 million, while those who take care of children with disabilities received support worth Frw 54 million.
Another specific category that received special attention are children in prisons, where measures were taken to speed up cases of young offenders as well as those of people whose children live with them in jail.
The government has also made major efforts to promote gender equality, in order to correct major imbalances between the sexes that resulted from traditional culture. Several laws that hindered gender equity have been reformed.
In the first place, in order to make women’s voices heard and increase their influence, quota were instated for women in leadership and decision-making positions. As a result, in 2008 Rwanda became the global leader when it comes to the proportion of women in parliament, at 56.25%. In other decision-making positions, women consist of at least 30%.
In order to instill young girls with the sense of gender equality and entitlement to their rights, gender clubs have been put in place in secondary schools and universities, as well as on the district level.
Legal provisions have been put in place to ensure gender equality; for the first time in the country’s history, women are now by law entitled to land and inheritance. Numerous programs and projects have also been initiated to ensure economic empowerment of women as well as financial independence, especially through entrepreneurship training. This has led to a marked increase of women getting access to credit.
The government has embarked on providing the youth with the necessary education both main stream and vocational. Youth have been sensitized to join cooperatives as a way of eradicating poverty and providing employment opportunities. For instance, the National Youth Environment Project has employed more than 2,000 youth, while more than 10,000 youth have joined the credit and savings scheme COOJAD which has so far provided 887 of them with loans worth Frw 540 million in total.
Youth empowerment has received special attention from the highest levels; for instance, in 2007 First Lady Jeanette Kagame created the Imbuto Foundation, which among others pays particular attention to the promotion of excellence among youth, especially girls. Examples are the Young Rwandan Achievers awards, as well as annual awards for the best female students. President Kagame, for his part, has initiated the Academy for Leadership in Competitiveness and Prosperity (ALCP), which aims at promoting entrepreneurship and innovation among youth.
Other programs have targeted specific problems that young people face. One example is HIV/Aids, where several media campaigns have been held on, among others, the use of condoms or the danger of so-called “sugar daddies and mommies.”
Efforts have also been made to tackle the problem of street children. One initiative saw the establishment of the Iwawa rehabilitation and vocational skills development center, which aims at readjusting such youngsters to society and teaching them professions that can earn them an income. The school has so far enrolled 1,103 youth, but has a capacity of 2,500 students.
For the past seven years, the government has strived to involve the civil society in planning and decision-making. In this respect, a civil society policy and laws that govern it have been put in place. An international NGO forum was established, as well as an inter-religion forum.
In addition, a joint governance assessment at the national level has been put in place as well as a joint action development forum at the district level where all the stakeholders are represented. A mechanism for sharing ideas was also initiated which includes development partners, the private sector and government. Such forums include Development Partners Meeting (DPM), the Joint Budget Support Review (JBSR) and the Budget Support Harmonization Group (BSHG).
Sector working groups have been put in place to help implement government programs such as EDPRS.