February 15, 2019

Assessing Institutional Rules Vision 2020 Has Given Us to Anchor Governance

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As promised last Friday, this is the start of the serialization of the achievements and probable failures Vision 2020 has registered thus far.

The objective is to assess whether the promise embedded in this long term development strategy that has guided policy since 2000 has been achieved a year to the end of its implementation cycle next year.

In this series, we start with a review of Pillar One of the vision which is “Governance and [creating] a strong state”.

Under this pillar, architects of the Vision promised to deliver, by 2020, a Rwanda that is not only “modern and prosperous”, but one that has “a capable state characterized by rule of law…supports and protects its citizen without discrimination” in a climate of “accountability, transparency and efficiency in deploying scarce resource” besides respect for “democratic structures and process…and protection of human rights”.

To what extent has this Rwanda been achieved?  

Since governance is exercised and anchored in rules, laws, processes and institutions, this article documents and analyses the kind of laws, processes and institutions that anchor governance today with subsequent articles assessing whether these institutions, rules and process have substantively produced what was aspired to in Vision 2020. 

So, what is “governance”?

While governance is perceived to be a complex concept, the World Bank defines it as putting in place and implementing “the rules of the political system to solve conflicts between actors and adopt decisions (legally)”

And United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) sees governance “as the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels and it comprises mechanisms, processes, and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences”.

So what are “the rules of the political system” set up “to solve conflicts between political actors” since the inauguration of Vision 2020 in 2000 and what are the “mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens…articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights…and mediate their differences” today?

Looking back to what Rwanda had and didn’t have in 2000 when Vision 2020 was adopted, institutionally and legally speaking, the ground has sharply shifted.

In fact, a critical assessment shows that Vision 2020’s earliest achievement lies in setting up of new institutions that anchor governance today and that clarify “appropriate” political behavior that are incentivized and those that are “punished”; mediate access to political power and ensure law and order.

To start with, there can’t be governance─of the type that would produce a middle income country and a knowledge based economy that Vision 2020 aspired to without law and order premised on secure borders and territorial integrity.

In 2000 when the vision was kick-started, the country still faced some lawlessness  as well as external threats particularly coming from the DR Congo where the so call democratic forces for the liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) had (and still has) bases.

Internally, law and order was provided by three paramilitary forces reporting to different centers of power. These included the gendarmerie that was under the Ministry of Defence; the communal police which was under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Judicial Police that reported to the Ministry of Justice.

To ensure proper coordination, and management of law and order in the country, in June 2000, the above forces were merged to form the current National Police to effectively take charge of law and order under one command and control.

At the time, Rwanda’s borders were still threatened by the FDLR based in Congo. The Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) kept them at bay at the time.

However, the RPA was a liberation rebel army that had defeated a genocide regime and in order to achieve the objectives of Vision 2020, it had to be reorganized to have a national army.

So, in 2002, a decision was taken and the RPA became the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) as codified by law no.19/2002 of 17/05/2002.

Since then, this force has incorporated not only former members of the Forces armées Rwandaises (ex-Far) but also former members of FDLR; including senior commanders.

In subsequent years, other security organs were created like the local defence and DASSO that was created by law No.26/213 of May 10, 2013 as well as the ‘Reserve Force” and the privatization of security through the creation of private security companies.

In the fourth and final article on this pillar of governance, we will asses whether, combined with achievements from other institutions of governance, this security institutional framework has given us “a capable state”.

Fundamentally however, it was the promulgation of the 2003 constitution that, institutionally and legally speaking reoriented the country away from rules of the ancient regime to the aspirations of Vision 2020.

For instance, the 2003 constitution, under Article 182 created the ombudsman’s office that deals with corruption and acts as a certain check on judicial abuse of power while Article 165 (and in the revised version Art. 166) creates the Auditor-General’s office that audits and ensures accountable governance.

President Paul Kagame watches as the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF), a national army diplays its latest tech and skills

On reconciliation and live together regardless, Article 178 of the 2003 empowers Unity and Reconciliation Commission that had been created by an act of parliament in 1999 to reconcile Rwandans while the Commission to fight against genocide ideology was also created by an act of parliament in 2007 to ensure Never Again by fighting the ideology of genocide.

On relations between the state, the governors and the governed, Article 2 of the Constitution says that “Suffrage is universal and equal to all” and Article 13 clarifies that in Rwanda, “A human being is sacred and inviolable” and “The State has an obligation to respect, protect and defend the human being”.

In article Three in our serialization, we will assess the extent to which the aspirations in the above two article have been achieved.

On fundamental principals in Chapter III, Article 10, the Constitution emphasizes “preventing and punishing the crime of genocide”; “power-sharing”; building a “state governed by rule of law; a pluralistic democratic government; equality between Rwanda, men and women” as well as “constant quest for solutions through dialogue and consensus”

And on governance, Article 62 states that “Power sharing is respected in State institutions in accordance with the fundamental principles set out under Article 10 of this Constitution…” while Article 61 spells out checks and balances between institutions of government─the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.

In our next article, we will assess the extent to which power-sharing has been achieved within a pluralistic political dispensation provided under Article 54 of the Constitution and checks and balances ensured as envisioned in the constitution in a climate of freedom of the press, of expression; and of information as provided for under Article 38 of the same constitution.

Now that we have clarified the institutional and legal framework under which the objectives of the first pillar of Vision were to be attained, in the next article, we shall analyse whether or not power-sharing, rule of law and checks and balances have been achieved as envisioned.

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