Patterns and perspectives of governance in Rwanda

By Benoît NDAGIJIMANA, Deputy Secretary General of UDF Inkingi

In a seminar held in London in April 2009 and which was entitled “Rwanda: 15 years after genocide –Challenges and pathways of everlasting peace and stability”, I was required by organisers, on behalf of UDF-INKINGI, to deal with “patterns and perspectives of governance in Rwanda. The topic in itself is inexhaustible and everlasting, hence my idea to come back to it in this Newsletter.

Governance is a broad concept and can refer to many a field. Worthy of note, however, is this definition quoted from World Bank Institute’s Home Page: “Governance consists of the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. This includes the process by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced; the capacity of the government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies; and the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them”.

In this article, I will focus on “political governance”, the case ofRwanda. In its report “Governance Matters 2009”, The World Bank Institute offers an analysis ofRwanda’s performance in terms of governance between 1996 and 2009. The analysis is based on the well-known six dimensions of governance used by the Worldwide Governance Indicators (The WGI). The six WGI’s aggregate indicators of governance are as follows:

a) Voice and accountability captures perceptions of the extent to which a country’s citizens are able to participate in selecting their government, as well as freedom of expression, freedom of association, and a free media.

 b) Political stability and absence of violence measures the perceptions of the likelihood that the government will be destabilized or overthrown by unconstitutional or violent means, including domestic violence and terrorism.

 c) Government effectiveness captures perceptions of the quality of public services, the quality of the civil service and the degree of its independence from political pressures, the quality of policy formulation and implementation, and the credibility of the government’s commitment to such policies.

 d) Regulatory quality captures perceptions of the ability of the government to formulate and implement sound policies and regulations that permit and promote private sector development.

 e) Rule of law captures perceptions of the extent to which agents have confidence in and abide by the rules of society, and in particular the quality of contract enforcement, property rights, the police, and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence.

 f) Control of corruption captures perceptions of the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as « capture » of the state by elites and private interests.

 Doubtlessly, these indicators say a lot on the way countries are governed and the degree of democratization.

Today you are likely to hear people say “good governance” instead of “governance”. This evolution in the use of the concept led some donors and international financial institutions such as the World Bank and The International Monetary Fund to condition their aid or loan on the degree of the country’s “good governance”.

 There are 8 characteristics of good governance, most of which are quite similar to the above-mentioned indicators of governance: participation, rule of law, transparency, responsiveness, consensus oriented, equity and inclusiveness, effectiveness and efficiency and accountability.

 All things being equal, we shall convene that voice and accountability (or participation and accountability), is a major indicator of political systems in place in our countries.

 Indeed, no matter how skillful and well-intended the leaders are, if they do not allow citizens’ participation and are not accountable to them, they cannot pretend to be inspired by democratic values.

 Unfortunately for us, of all political systems and governances thatRwandahas so far known, none succeeded in fulfilling this indicator. For the sake of corroborating this statement, we shall give a short assessment of the different Rwandan political systems beginning from the pre-colonial period, before putting our focus on the present Rwandan RPF-led regime.


An overview of Rwanda’s governance up to 1959

Rwandawas ruled by feudal absolute monarchs from time immemorial up to the eve of independence which took place in 1962. It is useless to attempt a serious assessment of the then political system in terms of indicators of (good) governance. Indeed, not only are these indicators very recent (for they have been in use since the 1990’s), but also the system in question was not built on modern patterns of governance. The Rwandan monarch ruled unhindered: no written laws or written constitution. Needless to say, civil society and opposition parties were unknown then. The power was among other things, characterized by the consecration of superiority and dominance of one ethnic group (Tutsi) over the others (Hutu and Twa).: “In 1957, out of 1,786 public administration positions, 1,577 were held by Tutsis (88%) and only 209 by Hutus (12%).The total population at the time being 2,448,000, it appears that the Tutsi representation rate in government was 46 times higher than the Hutu’s[1].”

An overview of Rwanda’s governance under the 1st Republic

The 1959 social revolution and the referendum “Kamarampaka” (September 25, 1961) which, headed by the Democratic Republican Movement-PARMEHUTU party (MDR-PARMEHUTU) led to the birth of the Republic and the independence ofRwandaadvocated among other things, a fairer society and “the government of the people, by the people and for the people”. Unfortunately, the MDR party then in power ended up failing this mission in excluding other political parties which composed the opposition, namely the Rwandese National Union-UNAR; the Association for Social Promotion of the Masses-APROSOMA and the Rwandese Democratic Rally-RADER).

An overview of Rwanda’s governance under the 2nd Republic

The 2nd Republic was ushered by the 1973 Coup d’Etat. This governance could not obviously meet such indicators as rule of law or accountability. Between 1973 and 1975,Rwandawas under a Military Regime proper. Between 1975 and 1991,Rwandawas aOnePartyState, that is, all Rwandans were in a single party: National Revolutionary Movement for Development-MRND). Almost all key political sectors such as civil administration, security institutions were in the hands of Hutus. Political governance was in no way democratic until the multiparty transition (from 1991 to 1994.)

Rwanda’s governance under the present RPF regime

The RPF regime is in a category of its own. When you give a different opinion or dare to criticize whatsoever concerning governance, you are automatically considered as genocide denier, genocide ideologist, divisionist, revisionist, and so on and so forth. Law is actually there to silence people.

 Indeed, since its victory and its first government in 1994, two former Prime Ministers (Faustin TWAGIRAMUNGU and Pierre Célestin RWIGEMA), two former heads of Rwanda Parliament (Joseph SEBARENZI and Alfred MUKEZAMFURA), a great number of former ministers and parliament members, civil, judicial and religious authorities, army officers among whom senior officers (e.g.: Gen. Emmanuel HABYARIMANA, former Rwandan Minister of Defence, Gen. Kayumba NYAMWASA, former Rwandan army chief of staff, Col. Patrick Karegeya, former Director General of External Intelligence, …), and other thousands of Rwandans  have fled the country for fear of repression or assassination.

 Furthermore, 7 mayors, among them two women (the late Judith MUKABARAMBA and A.Marie MUKANDOLI) and two former Governors Pierre Claver RWANGABO and Assiel KABERA, were assassinated in unclear circumstances. In much the same way were assassinated in Nairobi-KENYA Seth SENDASHONGA, RPF founder member and former minister of home affairs and Col. Théoneste LIZINDE, former parliament member and Governor of Byumba. An important number of judicial and civil authorities have gone missing, have been assassinated or imprisoned.

 Political opposition is quite impossible inRwanda. At the eve of 2003 Presidential elections former and first Rwandan President under RPF regime, Pasteur BIZIMUNGU tried to set up a new opposition party called PDR-Ubuyanja but he was quickly imprisoned and his party dissolved. One of 2003 presidential candidates, namely Dr Théoneste NIYITEGEKA was jailed some time after elections. The period around the 2010 Presidential elections was characterized by harassments, intimidation, imprisonment and even assassination of political opponents and journalists. Thus, among personalities now crawling in prison are Bernard NTAGANDA, founder and chairperson of PS-Imberakuri party, Déo MUSHAYIDI, chairperson of PDP-Imanzi, Victoire INGABIRE UMUHOZA, chairperson of FDU-Inkingi, Agnes Nkusi UWIMANA and Saidati MUKAKIBIBI, both of them being journalists (of Umurabyo Journal). As to assassinated personalities, the late J.Léonard RUGAMBAGE (of Umuvugizi Journal) who was shot dead and André KAGWA RWISEREKA, 1st Vice-President of Green Party, who was found dead nearly beheaded, are clear examples of violence aimed at silencing voices of dissent. Few lucky ones managed to flee (Frank HABINEZA, Chair of the Democratic Green Party), Jean Bosco GASASIRA and Charles KABONERO, both journalists of Umuvugizi and Umuseso journals respectively.

 As a matter of fact, examples that portray a deep absence of essential indicators of good governance are endless. To corroborate this statement, here is the link which leads to the  worldwide indicators page : .

 It offers the advantage of allowing comparisons between different countries. When you selectRwandaand consider a 7-year-period from 2003 to 2009, you will notice, among other things, that in terms of voice and accountability,Rwandaoscillates between the 10th and 25th Percentile over the seven years. On the whole, from 2003 to 2009,Rwanda’s governance scores are either between the 10th-25th Percentile, and the 25th-50th Percentile. It is only for control of corruption whereRwandasucceeds in ranging between the 50th-75th Percentile and this only during the years 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

 The lower score observed regarding the voice and accountability indicator matches with what external observers witnessed during 2003 and 2008 elections. Citizens do not exercise any real influence in the choice of their leaders. Elections are nothing but mock elections. Unfortunately, this experience worsened in 2010 elections. On-going September 2011 senatorial elections will surely be the same, for the National electoral commission remains in the hands of the only RPF.

 Worthy of note, however, unlike most African countries, Ghana’s score in terms of voice and accountability stays between the 50th-the 75th Percentile over the 7 years (from 2003 to 2009). This indicates thatGhanabehaves somewhat better in terms of democratic values.

 Compared with the previous Rwandan regimes, the present Rwandan RPF government is in no way better in terms of discrimination and disparities. For example, of the 46 high officers in the Rwandan army in 2006 (ranked General, Lieutenant General, Major General, Brigadier General and Colonel), 5 were Hutus (11%) and 41 were Tutsis (89%), most of the latter being returnees fromUganda.

 Perspectives of governance

 Throughout its political history,Rwandahas never had governance wherein Rwandans from different ethnic groups and regions equally participate. There have always been serious failures in terms of democratic values. The future of our country will depend on the strength of democratic and honest politicians who put forward national interests before their own.Rwandaneeds women and men who are capable and ready to work together, in order to, among other things:

- put in place political system where the people’s voice is heard and considered and where leaders are really accountable to the public.

- put an end to discrimination and guarantee equal opportunities to all Rwandan citizens

- put an end to impunity and ensure that victims receive fair compensations.

- put an end to expansionism policies and contribute to the restoration of regional peace and security.

Once we have achieved such noble goals,Rwandawill be ready for a genuine sustainable development.

[1] Rwanda Today : When Foreign Aid Hurts More Than It helps
By Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation in collaboration with Emmanuel Hakizimana, Ph.D., Université du Québec à Montréal and Brian Endless, Ph.D., Loyola University Chicago
April 5, 2009-Chicago, Illinois, p.11 (quoting Munyengaju).

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