IRI Democratic Governance Speaker Series: Assessing Governance in Rwanda

Shyaka and Pham discuss Rwandan governance.  Click the image to watch the discussion on IRITV.  IRI and the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center at the Atlantic Council hosted Professor Shyaka Anastase, Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda Governance Board, to discuss the state of democratic governance in his country.  With a growing appreciation for the value of citizen input in the decision-making process, Rwanda has implemented a number of programs to encourage community involvement in governing and local governments continue to consult citizens in setting priorities and implementing development plans.

Assessing Governance in Rwanda was the fourth event that IRI has hosted as part of its Democratic Governance Speakers Series program.  These public forums bring together policymakers, practitioners and stakeholders to discuss and share experiences in addressing contemporary challenges to governance.   

Professor Anastase Shyaka, Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda Governance Board, and Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center at the Atlantic Council spoke about Rwanda’s governance model and the reforms that have been enacted since the country’s crippling 1994 genocide.  Paul Fagan, IRI’s Regional Director for Africa, moderated the event.    The panelists discussed Rwanda’s economic growth and its goal of becoming a middle income country by the year 2020, while also addressing the many challenges that still face Rwanda, including geographic disadvantages, a lack of resources and a closed political space that does not allow for truly pluralist democracy.   

Specifically, Shyaka noted the need for Rwanda’s national government to relinquish a portion of its power in the interest of expanding the country’s political space, citing media freedom and equal representation within the cabinet as opportunities for improvement.  Shyaka further remarked on the need for Rwandans to separate ethnic identity from democracy – a reference to the effects of memories that remain vivid in the minds of Rwandans in the aftermath of the horrific 1994 genocide.

With regard to the implementation of the Rwanda Vision 2020 Plan (PDF), Pham commended the country on its continued fight against corruption and the corresponding increase in transparency, while cautioning as to the country’s fate in the absence of a charismatic and aid-wringing spokesperson such as President Paul Kagame.  Until a recent flare-up of skepticism from the international community, Kagame has managed to secure a constant flow of donor support that has comprised a significant portion of the country’s revenue for the past two decades.

Shyaka and Pham answered questions from the audience that ranged from concerns over freedom of the press in Rwanda to the prominent role that women have played in government and its implications for Rwanda’s democratic advancement.  Ambassador of Rwanda James Kimonyo highlighted both the successes that Rwanda’s President has brought to the country as well as the urgent need for institution building and the critical endowment of citizens of Rwanda with a sense of ownership of their country’s achievements.

The Rwanda Governance Board was created in 2011 to promote the principles of good governance and decentralization, monitor the practices of good governance in public and private institutions and conduct research related to governance for achieving good service delivery, sustainable development and prosperity.  The Michael S. Ansari Africa Center was established to help transform US and European policy approaches to Africa by emphasizing the building of strong geopolitical partnerships with African states and strengthening economic growth and prosperity on the continent. 

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