If Government gets its way, the City of Kigali (CoK) as we have been used to it for many years, will be no more very soon. The Minister of Local Government Prof Anastase Shyaka is drafting a law that has wide-ranging changes for the city. (READ: New Kigali City Structure: Districts Lose Budgeting, Planning Role). The Chronicles’ Magnus Mazimpaka, spoke to Marie-Chantal Rwakazina about her role in the process. It was also an opportunity to hear her impressions of the job. She is the ninth Mayor since the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
Rwakazina’s predecessors in their order are: Nyamurinda Pascal, Ambassador Monique Mukaruliza, Fidele Ndayisaba, Dr Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, Theoneste Mutsindashyaka, Protais Musoni, Marc Kabandana and Lt Col Rtd Rose Kabuye – the Mayor after 1994.
Below are excerpts of the interview:
May I have an opportunity to understand since you were elected as Mayor of the City of Kigali in May 2018, how do you summarize your time there so far?
My time in the office since May 25 when I was elected as the Mayor of the City of Kigali was mostly a learning path because I was not new in the field of local governance but I was new in terms of managing a city, especially a capital city. But I was lucky because I joined when the City of Kigali was in the process of finalizing the budget preparation of the year, but also was starting the review of the Master Plan. Then, these two processes were a very good opportunity [for] me to learn very quickly what is happening in the city in terms of annual planning but also the long term planning which is the preparation of the review of Master Plan which is now preparing what will be the infrastructure and housing profile from now until 2050.
Another thing that I learned, especially, is the responsibility of the City. I thought the city – which is coordinating the work of three districts, the main responsibility was the coordination of the work of three districts. But I have found that the City of Kigali has additional tasks which include implementation of the infrastructure projects as an addition.
Actually, [that is] the difference between the City of Kigali and Provinces. The Provinces are not decentralized organ. They are in charge of only coordinating the work of districts under their responsibility. But for the City of Kigali, because we are a decentralized organ, we are in charge of coordination, but we also implement; implementing infrastructure planned and housing as planned in the Master Plan.
Another thing that was new for me is that this implementation responsibility takes almost eighty per cent of the budget of the City… It is a big task but now I can consider that the learning path is almost ending and I need to come up with what will be my input in terms of developing farther, based on what was done and making the City a place to enjoy living for the citizen of Kigali, but also the visitors.
Have you had ups and downs?
No! It was a straight line and I can say that I enjoyed it.
What can you tell us because we don’t work with you in the office, maybe on the outside we think you had only good times. Can you tell us the obstacles you encountered along the way?
I think in a path you may have challenge but not obstacles because obstacles mean you are not moving anymore or you would have to go back. I have not encountered [obstacles] but we always have challenges. We [have] addressed [them] with the team here [in collaboration] with the members of the Executive Committee and staff, in partnership with the leaders of the districts. On another level, the City hosts the Cabinet members and His Excellency the President of the Republic. We are not alone.
What kind of burden do you face that we don’t know?
I don’t like to call it burdens. The challenge is budget, resources – financial resources especially, because [for] the human resources, [their] capacity can be built. Financial capacity, like I said, we put eighty percent of what we are doing in infrastructure. The cost of infrastructure is very high. And another [issue] is that the expectation, in terms of the quality of living and the quality of infrastructure, is very high as well. They want infrastructure to happen very quickly and good infrastructure.
Where do you get resources?
The districts are collecting the taxes and they transfer to the city 30% of the taxes they have collected but these are not enough because they are there to pay the salaries of the City’s staff, to pay for the administration. [By the end of the process] we have infrastructure, yet we have remained with a small, small budget. Another source of resources is central government. As I was saying, because we are the capital city – when the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Infrastructure are negotiating allocation of financial support from partners, even some of our infrastructure are included. We have got support from the World Bank through negotiation done at the central government level. These are the two main source of our [financial] resources.
In the real world and in the hypothetical, what would you need?
We will need more. Depending on the two sources is making us deliver [at] very low pace. Having enough resources lets you to respond to the citizens’ expectation, but also to the target that we have set for ourselves in the city governance strategy – that is aligned to the national strategy of transformation until 2024. We have thought about the City of Kigali also contracting loans….the financing can be repaid over long period, but it will have enabled us to build the infrastructure needed in the time set.
How much are you spending on the budget of the city of Kigali?
I will give you the figures. Our budget varies very much because of the transfer that is being done by the Central Government for implementing some infrastructure at different times. We can have Rwf 20 billion budget this year because we are implementing a project and the following year we have less. What does not change much is that eighty percent of our budget is [consumed by] infrastructure. It [also] depends on national priorities and national transfers.
This means you can’t independently think for the city, you have to be flexible to accommodate new ideas, new projects can be brought in at any time?
Yes we plan! We have a strategic plan. We have an annual action plan that guides us…. We also have to look for enough money that will allow us to implement what we have planned and be able to deliver [within] the timeline that we have set for ourselves in the strategic plan.
Who do you have this conversation with?
The central government and the districts. Are you aware that we are drafting a new law?
The one that was in in recent cabinet meeting resolution?
It is a bit related to what we are discussing.
What is the provision?
[Currently] we are having two decentralized units. The three districts with legal status Gasabo, Nyarugenge and Kicukiro, and the City of Kigali also with legal status. We have three districts with their strategic plans and the City with its own strategy. But the citizen is one, the needs are one. We were trying to address it but it was bit painful and time consuming because we had like 4 planning and four budgets processes.
Overall do you take responsibility?
This is another thing. I am the Mayor of the City of Kigali, I need to know what is happening everywhere. About the planning and budgeting, we will have a new structure as it is proposed by the draft law. It will only be the City of Kigali having legal status.
This gives you the power to even impose what should be done?
Imposing is not something that we are doing anymore. We consult everybody and agree on one plan from east to west of the city. What districts will be doing [in proposed structure] is implementing what is in the strategic plan, annual action plan and the budget will be allocated to them.
Did it go like this or there is a pull and push?
Actually, I am providing a small part of the information where I was consulted [during the] process. It was led by the Ministry [of local government].
How did this come about? Was it a particular case?
Actually they were three reasons. The first reason is about the Constitution as amended in 2018 provides a specific law of the City of Kigali. People thought that it was time that the City of Kigali is not under the law governing decentralized organs like districts. The second reason is that people were observing that there was duplication and loss of resources… The third reason is on delivery, like you are building roads but you are not expanding the water because the budget was really limited.
The roads network in the city of Kigali is 1.2 million km, will it remain with these current figures?
We will get the current figures from the technicians. I think the road network is more than that because we have like three categories. We have national roads; a road that will go through Kigali but which is connected to the countryside – this is managed by the Ministry of Infrastructure. We have what we call city roads like main roads in the city, these are sometimes managed by the City in collaboration with Rwanda transportation agencies.
CORRECTION: This text has been modified slightly. One of the former Mayors Amb. Monique Mukaruliza was not included in the previous text. We regret the error.
The next segment of the interview will be published later…
Interview was transcribed by Protais Mbarushimana