When Kagame draws leaders closer to citizens
President Paul Kagame is well known by Rwandans (And outside Rwanda) for his zero tolerance for corruption. No body under his leadership will get away with swindling taxpayers’ money unquestioned.
He is also known for being a ‘development-oriented’ leader of our time, who has led Rwanda to rapid development in a few years.
As a Rwandan who has seen it all throughout Kagame’s journey of transforming this Country into what many observers and scholars now brand the ‘Singapore of Africa’, I discovered why his leadership style has been more successful and admired by not only the ordinary citizens but everyone who understands Africa’s problems.
In my view, African Continent has been suffering two main diseases; the colonial era and post-colonial bad leadership characterized by civil wars and conflicts.
For President Kagame and his Country, the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi was a lesson that needed visionary leadership of his caliber to wipe Rwandans off tears and scars of the horrific Genocide-to a new chapter of life.
The homework to this lesson was Kagame’s policy of reconciliation and development of Rwanda as a country.
From what I have seen and any other Rwandan or foreigners visiting the Country, his leadership system is ‘Citizen-Centred’.
Reading one of Kagame’s latest quotes trending on his Tweeter Account, he says in Kinyarwanda that: “Gukorera mu biro bifite amashanyarazi njyewe utayangezaho, urakoramo iki?”-Loosely translated to mean: “What would you be doing in that good office installed with electricity if you cannot share it with me?”
According to the above quote, Kagame ponders on leaders who find it better to remain in good offices when they can’t think about the ordinary people.
Kagame’s love for his People is widely seen in a number of community outreach programmes he conducts. He regularly travels to the Countryside to meet with ordinary citizens where they discuss problems they face and come up with swift decisions to solve them.
For those who have worked around him, Kagame surprises his subordinates when it comes to maintaining social economic welfare of Citizens.
In 2009, I got the opportunity to sit with Sen. (Rtd) Joseph Karemera in his Parliamentary office for an exclusive interview. My interview with Sen. Karemera was about the liberation struggle the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) went through, the current RPF leadership policies and indeed its achievements in the last 15 years by then.
In a range of things we discussed with Sen. Karemera, the former health and Education Minister could not hide his admiration for President Kagame’s ‘Quick’ mind in looking for solutions to solve problems that Rwandans face.
“For years I have worked with President Kagame, he has always been a surprise to me, especially when it comes to solving issues hindering the welfare of Rwandans. I remember one day when we were meeting him. He proposed to look into the possibility of giving every Rwandan a cow.
Most among us found the proposal challenging, but Kagame insisted that it is possible. We started to implement the programme and you can now see how Rwandan Children enjoy milk today,” Sen. Karemera said of Kagame’s initiative of One-Cow-per-household-programme.
In doing all this, Kagame’s success has been through creation of a ‘Friendly environment’ between leaders and the local population.
According to Kagame’s style of leadership, a well-respected and performing Cabinet Minister or any other leader is the one who bends down and listens to Citizens’ grievances and finds a solution to them. This is has been the case especially during his community outreach programmes.
Giving citizens the opportunity to speak their mind
Last Thursday, President Kagame was in Nyabihu District in the Western Province. His visit to the District was part of his Community Outreach programme. In Nyabihu, tens of thousands turned up to meet him.
According to residents, they turn up in big numbers because of the expectation to get solutions to their pending grievances.
During interactions with residents wherever he goes, Kagame leads a face-to-face contact with Citizens and hits at Ministers and local leaders once they start mincing words when it’s time to respond to questions asked by Citizens.
Once the leaders agree to their failures and promise to follow up on unsolved issues, the President goes on to even request residents to telephone him once they (leaders) don’t meet the agreed deadline to solve the problems.
In addition to this style of solving the Country’s development challenges, Kagame initiated a policy of performance contracts commonly known as Imihigo.
Imihigo, a traditional practice in the Rwandan culture, was re-initiated by President Kagame in March 2006. This was a result of the concern about the rate and quality of execution of government programmes and priorities.
The government’s decentralization policy required a greater level of accountability at the local level.
Kagame’s main objective of re-initiating imihigo was to make public agencies and institutions more effective and accountable in their implementation of national programmes and accelerate social-economic development agenda as contained in the vision 2020 and Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy policies as well as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In his Community Outreach trips, Kagame demands leaders to work more and achieve the Country’s development goals.
In Nyabihu District, Kagame raised the issue of a milk plant that has been pending completion since 2011. After asking Agriculture Minister why the plant has been not completed, the President realized that negligence was behind the slow success.
He told residents that: “As leaders, we take the blame for this issue and we are going to regret why this plant has not been completed. We are going to solve it in one way or another. But we also look forward to how you will make it productive and if you fail, the blame will be on you,” said Kagame.
This is how Kagame bends his leaders towards citizens.
Through these interactions, however, Kagame does not leave Citizens reluctant. He remind them to be the Centre stage of maintaining security and development of their Country.