In a predictable vote held Saturday, Rubingisa Pudence was elected as the new Mayor of Kigali City – putting him in charge of more than Rwf 54bn budget and nearly a million inhabitants.
Rubingisa had earlier emerged among the 2 elected Councillors of Gasabo district to sit on the 11-member Kigali City Council.
As set out in the new law governing Kigali and giving it special status, the Council was to choose its Chair and the Mayor, from among themselves.
Rubingisa takes the helm of Rwanda’s capital for the next 5 years, renewed once. He comes as the first ambitious development master plan adopted in 2008 is currently being revised, and could soon be adopted.
Unlike previous Mayors whose authority over the city was divided between them and the elected mayors of the 3 districts making up Kigali, the new law gives Rubingisa extensive powers.
He will lead a team in charge of planning, budgeting and implementation of all plans. He will be supported by District Executive Administrators who will be appointed by the Prime Minister.
As reported by The Chronicles last week, Rubingisa’s record has some issues, even though a court reportedly cleared him.
In 2013, Rubingisa was wooed from the diapora to be the deputy vice chancellor in charge of finance and administration of the then newly created University of Rwanda (UR). It combined 7 government universities and colleges.
Five years later in August 2017, news broke that state prosecutors had arrested him over fraudulent payment of more than Rwf 1 billion ($1.09m) to contractor who had not done any work.
When he was released on bail, there was disbelief, as displayed in a heated parliamentary session in April 2018.
A court is said to have cleared him some months later, and government did not appeal.
Rubingisa will have two deputies also elected today. However, under the Kigali law, the Mayor has very tough oversight by a powerful City Council.
The chair of the City Council is Dr Bayisenge Jeannette, who is also the Director of the Centre for Gender Studies at the University of Rwanda. She has also been chair of Gasabo district Council.
A new office, called the City of Kigali Management Office is going to be established, headed by City Manager who is appointed by the Prime Minister. This official is the accounting and budgeting officer of the whole City of Kigali.
There is also another body called the Security Committee, where the powerful military and other security organs are represented.
Rubingisa meanwhile finds big shoes to fill. He finds a City that has got international acclaim for its cleanliness and orderliness.
However, it has other contrasts. A controversial regulation against noise pollution has seen it becoming over more boring. This has also been compounded by the sometimes daily traffic police roadblocks that take away cars of those considered too drunk or missing any single document.
Social media has for years been filled with commentary over how best to keep order but also make the city enjoyable.
The city is also still trying to establish car free zones in different parts of the city. The idea remains contested.
What is clear however is that by endorsing Rubingisa to take up the City as mayor, the country’s establishment is giving him another chance at the top. Rarely do such chances come for others who have faced questions over their integrity.
Rubingisa has meanwhile been the managing director of Intare Investments Ltd, which also handles the magnificent Intare Conference. The company is owned by the RPF party.