The law governing Kigali City is currently under review in parliament with the objective of what officials say will improve service delivery and make coordination and planning more effective.
But some opposition members of parliament say the new law will undermine decentralization and make Kigali City less effective in delivering services and planning.
One of the most important change the new law seeks to put in place is that while Kigali City Mayor will be elected by councilors as it is today, the current elected District Mayors will be replaced by “District Administrators” appointed by the President of the Republic─a higher authority.
Observers now wonder whether district administrators won’t have more clout and influence than the city mayor and whether this isn’t a return to centralizing power as was the case before the advent of decentralization in post-genocide Rwanda.
Once adopted, the law will make the three districts that make up Kigali City lose their legal personality. These districts are: Gasabo, Nyarugenge and Kicukiro.
In practice, losing legal personality means that these districts will no longer have the right to independent planning and a budget or the right to sue or be used.
As Article 3, paragraph 2 of this draft law says, “Districts, Sectors, Cells and Villages of the City of Kigali are decentralized administrative entities without legal personality”
But “The City of Kigali” will remain “a decentralized entity with specialized administration, legal personality, administrative and financial autonomy”, the law says
Importantly, while district mayors have in the old law been elected by district councilors who are directly elected by citizens, in the new law, districts will be under the leadership of a “district administrator” appointed by the President of the Republic.
Article 36 says “The Executive Organ of the district is composed of the following two (2) members including a woman: (1) the Chief Administrator and (2) Deputy District Chief Administrator”
Paragraph four adds: “Members of the Executive Organ are appointed by a Presidential Order for a term of five (5) years renewable”
Lawmaker Dr Frank Habineza, who is also the President of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda says this law will neither advance decentralization nor make service delivery effective.
Speaking to the Chamber of Deputies when the draft law was presented, he said: “There are other institutions which rely on the legal entity of districts, for example district hospitals. Losing legal personality might cause legal problems and may also cost government a lot of money”
To Habineza, it would be better for districts to retain their legal personality.
He says: “…while the City of Kigali gains a higher status [with the new law], the districts can still remain with their legal status”.
The Chronicles talked to Ms. Rwakazina Mary Chantal, who was the Mayor of Kigali City until her appointment as Ambassador to Geneva this Monday.
Rwakazina says the draft law, once adopted will not the national policy of decentralization but will make services better within a decentralized system
“The new law has goals of promoting the decentralization administration entities in Kigali”; enhancing citizen cooperation and empowerment as well as improving services delivery.
Prof Shyaka Anastase, the Minister of Local Government, in whose docket Kigali City falls, told The Chronicles in interview that there is no contradiction in the new draft law and that, once adopted, it will promote and enhance the powers of decentralized entities not limit them.
Prof Shyaka said “Though the official leaders of Kigali City will be elected and others appointed by the Presidential Order nothing will [be] affected during implementation of [the] law…because the law will not change [the] working conditions, salaries”
Prof Shyaka further explains that the “Draft law is changing only co-operation system not [the] political system of [the] city. So, the policy makers will continue working under the current political system that cannot collapse the authority [of the] Mayor and other elected officials”.
It nevertheless remains to be seen whether an appointee of the President of the Republic can report to an elected official at a lower-level than the presidency.