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Exclusive: Why Are Rwandan Mayors Resigning en masse?

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By press time, 13 District Mayors in Rwanda had left office within this five year mandate that began in 2016.

Only two of them, former city of Kigali Mayors, Monique Mukaruriza and Pascal Nyamurinda, resigned after the appointing authority asigned them other duties.

The rest have mainly been forced to resign or voluntarily called it a quit.

Local Government Minister Francis Kaboneka told Taarifa that the frequency is indeed high, “But it is healthy, very healthy.”

“This is democracy, and a sign of a culture of accountability,” Kaboneka said.

Except for George Mupenzi of Nyagatare, most mayors tendered in their resignations for failure to deliver or failure to adhere to the leadership code of conduct.

Only one or two had different reasons including the lack of capacity to deliver, plainly put.

Taarifa has learnt that Mupenzi threw in his towel after realising that time was catching-up with him due to a backlog of unfinished projects, because he was unable to effectively mobilise his team to deliver.

Sources tell us that Mupenzi’s demise was a result of his failure to communicate effectively, exert his authority and to delegate, yet he is regarded a wise and capable leader.

After tendering in his resignation, two of his deputies followed suit; Didas Kayitare and Domithille Musabyemariya, vice mayor for finance and economic development and vice mayor in charge of social affairs, respectively.

In Kamonyi district, however, Aimable Udahemuka resigned in mid June 2017 for bad conduct.

Udahemuka had apparently become a drunkard and had lost the moral authority to enforce discipline.

Two months later, then Mayor of Rubavu District, Jeremie Sinamenye resigned after being released from jail for interfering with Presidential candidate Philippe Mpayimana’s campaign trail.

Progressively, more mayors, their deputies and executive secretaries have been shown the exit door.

The recent case in Huye district, however, brings a twist into this saga of resignations.

Minister Kaboneka said Eugene Kayiranga Muzuka did not voluntarily resign as reported.

“He was forced to resign…” Kaboneka said, explaining the chancellors asked him to leave.

Kayiranga was forced out of office by the executive council after discovering that he had “cooked” numbers and issued a false report.

The council was investigating the mayor on projects cited in the recent auditor general’s report.

The mayor swung into action. He planted a mole in an ad-hoc team that was on ground gathering information on the projects.

When the executive council learnt of his behaviour, “they asked him to leave,” according to Minister Kaboneka.

In all these cases, the minister is only informed or casually consulted, “But all their decisions remain independent.”

Why now ?

Almost half of all the mayors in question left office in 2018.

This wave of resignations is a result of the recent leadership retreat for local leaders which was officiated by President Paul Kagame.

The president talked about a wide range of issues, which can be summarised in two major elements; accountability and conduct.

Based on the president’s remarks, mayors and councillors held a series of discussions.

The councillors are supposed to follow-up on district activities.

The central point of discussion was that it was time to deliver and meet the needs of the people.

It was a wake up call. Councillors are now at work.

“Our people are so demanding and they want quick and efficient service,” Kaboneka explained.

Mayors who cannot cope up with the demand can step down.

Meanwhile, there is a recurring fundamental problem of lack of cooperation between mayors and their team.

Some mayors are always in conflict with some members of the team.

The scenario does not allow mayors to focus and deliver, yet demand for delivery and accountability mount.

Despite the fact that mayors are well equipped and have a reasonably good compensation package and benefits, many of them have ended up quiting.

Resource-wise, the district has 11 departments, each with a director and three to four staff.

Most of these staff are technicians with skills to execute tasks.

Mayors earn a decent salary to the level of a permanent secretary of a ministry, roughly Rwf1.5 million seconded by other benefits.

According to Kaboneka, there is no excuse for failure to deliver whatsoever.

“I would want to see every mayor completing their term, but if they can’t deliver, we can’t protect them.”

Taarifa has also learnt that when Huye mayor resigned, there were about 20 individuals who expressed interest for the post right away.

Despite the pressure,  the job remains juicy nonetheless.

Musoni in the picture

There has been talk that former infrastructure Minister James Musoni had created a network of sycophantic leaders who pledged allegiance to  him while he was still the minister of local government.

Speculation has been going around that when he was appointed infrastructure Minister, he continued wielding power and influence to the extent that he still controlled which mayor would be elected or fired.

After President Kagame dropped him from Cabinet, the narrative of the story has now changed. It is said that now that he is out, those who were loyal to him are being hunted down or as they say that it is to “De-Musonise” the system.

When asked to comment on it, Minister Kaboneka first got confused what De-musonising means, and then burst into laughter. “That is nonsense,” he says.

Most of all the current mayors were elected in 2016, “I was the minister and Musoni was also in another ministry.”

Whatever is happening now is an organic and a very normal process, he said. “It is decentralisation and devolution of powers.” “Very democratic, and transparent.”

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