Thanks to good governance, achievements are there for all to see
18 YEARS OF LIBERATION – 50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
“Last week, I had to go to the notary in one sector in Kigali city to get my diploma certified, and I was surprised to see a clerk getting out his office to ask if there was no one else to serve. I have never seen this before.” The woman in her early thirties recounting this experience was still baffled. “In the past, it would have taken ours, or even days, to get that service.”
For Rwandan public servants, it has indeed become a matter of honor to ensure that people are helped promptly and efficiently, due to the fact that one of the guiding principles of the government is the practice of good governance.
It even created a special agency, the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), which has among other mandates, to promote the principles of good governance and decentralization. During last week, RGB organized a series of conferences on governance and democracy in the context of the festivities for 18 years of Liberation and 50 years of Independence.
They intended to examine the steps the country has taken in governance and democracy and lessons Rwandans should learn from the post-independence period which failed to lead to socio-economic development, and instead culminating in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis, which was only halted by the RPF-led liberation.
“Unlike the years 1962-1994, when Rwanda was in confusion, after our liberation and thanks to an ideologically clear-headed leadership, now we are no longer searching for a form of democracy and governance appropriate for our country”, says Professor Anastase Shyaka, the CEO of RGB. “We have it and are implementing it. And it is delivering results for all our citizens.”
Liberation constituted the dawn of a new era which saw citizens determined to ensure the best leadership for their country. That has been achieved, and professor Shyaka calls it a leadership which feeds a collective will aimed at succeeding as a nation. The same leadership, he says, pushes for unity and reconciliation among Rwandans and their sustainable socioeconomic development.
And for the RGB CEO, the indicators of this development are there for all to see, in every sector. “People need to remember for example the state of the health sector where not too long ago the nearest health center, leave alone hospital, was many kilometers away. Today, we have a hospital per district or even more, and the services are good”, Shyaka remarks. “And how about health insurance? People are no longer dying at home because they do not have money to go to hospital.”
Gacaca, abunzi and many other judicial structures allowed to uproot the culture of impunity, but also contributed to the unity and reconciliation process.
“We are no longer searching for a form of governance appropriate for our country. We have it and it is delivering results for all our citizens.” Anastase Shyaka, CEO of the Rwanda governance Board.
And as for democracy based on universal principles, professor Shyaka stresses that there is no one-fits-all formula. “There are certain universal democratic principles, but any country still has to find its own way. That’s why you shouldn’t measure our model of democracy against for example America’s or China’s.”
“Some people have been critical about how our elections are held, but as Rwandans we can be proud that our elections after 1994 have always been peaceful,” Shyaka remarks.
Senator Tito Rutaremara agrees. “Look at the last presidential elections: there were several candidates, and those who didn’t win readily accepted defeat,” he says.
Anastase Shyaka also points out in Rwanda, democracy is more than just elections. Thanks to decentralization, leaders are close to the people and have to work together with them to deliver. Today, people even have their say in the evaluation of district performance contracts, which they are meant to prepare with leaders.
Good governance also has an impact on economic development. While the government has over the past decade made major efforts to attract big investors to Rwanda, some have expressed their concern that those might squeeze local businesses out of the market and thus constitute a new type of colonization. Anastase Shyaka dismisses such fears.
“There is no way that attracting foreign investors is going to harm Rwandans – they bring in money and employ our people,” he argues. “But of course we want at the same time to see local businesses growing.”
The only caveat for foreign investors, Professor Shyaka says, is that they should respect Rwandans, as is their constitutional right. But not only that: citizens first and foremost deserve respect since they are the foundation of the country’s democratic and development path.
As for the citizens themselves, Shyaka says they should heed President Kagame’s advice that Rwandans must strive for and promote their own dignity. In the end, that was what the liberation struggle was all about.