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rwanda-mapPopulation: 11,457,801

HDI ranking: 167/187

HDI score: 0.434

Since 2000, Rwanda has adopted a sweeping National Decentralization Policy to ensure equitable political, economic, and social development throughout the country. While the implementation of this policy has yielded effective decentralization reforms, the country still faces the challenge of empowering its civil society for greater participation.

Local governance at a glance

  • At the national level the Ministry of Local Government, Good Governance, Community Development and Social Affairs (MINALOC) is responsible for the local authorities (CLGF, 2011).
  • The local government is structured in four tiers: districts, sectors, cells and villages (CLGF, 2011).
  • There are 30 districts (akarere), making up the primary local authority responsible for policy-making and legislation (CLGF, 2011).
  • There are 416 sectors (imerenge), goverrened by a Sector Executive Council elected by citizens over 18 and acts to approve sector plans and implementing new programs (MINALOC, 2011).
  • The 2,148 cells (utugari) directly elect a Cell Executive Committee to serve a five-year term. The Cell Executive Committee oversees the planning and implementation of community development at the cell level (CLGF, 2011; MINALOC, 2011).
  • The 14,837 villages (imudungu) each directly elect a five-member village authority to make decisions on behalf of the residents and oversee the daily administration of the village and development (CLGF, 2011).

 Civil society actors include

Capacity building institutions

  • The Decentralisation, Community Participation, Empowerment, Transparency and Accountability (DCPETA) Sector Working Group is an initiative of the Ministry of Infrastructure as a part of the The Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS). The Working Group enhances partnerships to promote transparent local government structures and improve accountability (MLG, 2012).
  • In 2007, the Government of Rwanda introduced “Imihigo” as indigenous tools enhancing service delivery. The original roots of the Imihigo practice held government officials accountable for their promises by requiring leaders to publicly state their goals and face public humiliation if these goals were not met. The newly renovated practice of Imihigo is said to already be benefitting the service delivery sector (Princeton, 2010).

Fiscal control

  • Own source revenues for districts mainly consist of local taxes and fees collected and administered at local level. Local governments have discretion to set tax rates, determine the tax base and administer the collection of the taxes, fees and user charges (World Bank, 2009).
  • The Government of Rwanda finalized a fiscal decentralization strategy which intends to increase funding on a district level (MLG, 2012).

Key initiatives for participatory local governance

  • In 2000, Rwanda adopted a sweeping National Decentralization Policy, designed “to ensure equitable political, economic, and social development throughout the country, and to be a cornerstone of the fight against poverty by increasing people’s participation in the planning and management of the development process” (GoR, 2011).
  • In 2005, Rwanda reduced its number of administrative units, from 106 to 30 districts, 1,545 to 416 sectors, and 9,165 to 2,148 cells (GoR, 2011).
  • Implementation of the Decentralization Policy is divided into phases. Phase I (2001-2005) aimed to establish democratic governance at the district level, including local elections and consolidation of administrative territories. Phase II (2006-2010) aimed to enhance service delivery, accountability, and capacity at the local level. Phase III (2011-2015) aims to clarify the decentralization legal framework, devolve fiscal control, and continue building local government capacity (GoR, 2011).
  • The Vision 2020 Umerenge Program (VUP) is a government program to reduce poverty and encourage public participation. The first pillar of this strategy is good governance and a capable state. “Through this pillar, the Government of Rwanda reiterates its commitment to ensuring accountability, transparency, and efficiency in deploying resources and delivering services. Central to this is people’s empowerment and participation through the decentralization process whereby local communities are empowered to participate in making decisions over issues that affect them most” (GoR, 2011).
  • The local election legislation and the constitution require a 30% reservation of government seats for women (CLGF, 2011).
  • The Ubudehe program involves community planning and implementation, where local communities identify their number one need and priority and, work together to address it. In addition, community works (Umuganda) are done on a monthly basis or when necessary, bringing together communities for rural infrastructure development and environment protection (Independent, 2011).
  • The Government of Rwanda has also increased “imihigo” – performance contracts, based on a traditional Rwandan practice of public goal-setting and evaluation (Princeton, 2010). These agreements involve the setting of local priorities through a participatory process and then translating these priorities into performance contracts with the local government (Independent, 2011).

Challenges for participatory local governance

  • “The roles of the central government are: policy formulation, capacity building, and monitoring and evaluation. But often, central government institutions do implementation. Assessments have shown that sectoral ministries and agencies still have problems adjusting to their expected roles of supporting and facilitating local governments and they instead cling to directing and controlling” (GoR, 2011).
  • “Ambiguity on what services are decentralised and what services are retained by the sectoral ministries. There is a need for policy and strategy documents to clearly indicate the institutional arrangements that will be created / strengthened / revamped to achieve better results regarding sectoral decentralization” (GoR, 2011).
  • “Earmarked transfers do not give sufficient discretion for local planning priorities… ensuring that national priorities are implemented but leaving little room for local discretion… Even if multi-purpose grants (channelled via CDF) are increased to meet the 10 % of the national budget clause, there should be more flexibility to districts in a certain budget year to utilise these grants” (GoR, 2011).

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List of sources (in order of citation):

UN Human Development Index, 2012: “Rwanda”

CLGF, 2011 “Rwanda”

Ministry of Local Government, Good Governance, Community Development and Social Affairs (MINALOC), 2011: “The Cell Organizational Structure”

Ministry of Local Government (MLG), 2012: “DCPETA sector summary report”

Princeton, 2010: “The promise of Imihigo: decentralized service delivery in Rwanda”

World Bank, 2009: “Local Government Discretion and Accountability: Application of a Local Governance Framework”

GoR, 2011: Government of Rwanda, “Decentralization Implementation Policy 3rd Phase”

Independent, 2011: “How decentralization policy is promoting reconciliation among Rwandans”