Rwanda: Urban Districts to Lose Legal Personality Under New Law

The Minister for Local Government on Thursday tabled a draft law in Parliament that seeks to scrap legal personality for all the three districts of the City of Kigali and makes the latter the only office that decides what is done in all areas of the capital.

Prof. Anastase Shyaka told MPs in the Lower House that the bill will enable the city to do away with current difficulties where both the office of the City of Kigali and its three districts have independent governing councils that decide what gets done.

Giving an example of where building a road from Gahanga (Kicukiro District) to Gisozi (Gasabo District) would require that the two districts take care of their own areas, the minister said that the new law would make both planning and implementation for the city's activities easier and more effective.

The city has three districts; Nyarugenge, Gasabo and Kicukiro.

"This law will make it possible to do effective planning and efficient use of resources for the city's development," he said.

He explained that the reforms will also ease decision making since one office, the City of Kigali led by a mayor who is assisted by both elected and appointed councillors as well as a committee of specialised advisors, will be making decisions for the entire city area.

"We expect this law to solve many problems especially given that we are now experiencing a fast development in the city," the minister said.

By implication, all decisions concerning the City of Kigali will be made at the level of the City of Kigali instead of being taken by different organs at the district level.

Hence, a district in the city will have no District Council and will no longer have an Executive Committee.

It will rather have an Executive Organ of the District composed of a District Chief Administrator and the Deputy District Chief Administrator who are appointed by the Head of State for a term of five years renewable. These will be under the supervision of the City Mayor.

It is proposed in the draft law that the district's administrators for the three districts will be assisted by a security committee and a corporate services division focused on delivering the city's services to citizens.

Parliament approved the basis of the proposed law, which means that it will be discussed at the parliamentary committee level before it is passed into law.

But the MPs also urged the minister to get prepared to explain in details how the changes will be made while ensuring that city residents won't face difficulties in accessing city services.

MPs Justine Mukobwa and Frank Habineza wondered whether the proposed changes won't be a hindrance for current achievements in the decentralisation process of city services.

"Where will sector officials report? There is going to be a huge gap from the Sector level to the City level," Mukobwa said.

Habineza rejected the proposal altogether even if it won more support from the MPs, getting a green light to be discussed at the committee level.

"I am yet to support this draft law because it will hinder the current achievements in the decentralisation process. Districts in the City of Kigali should keep their legal personality and we instead give the City of Kigali a special status," he said.

MP Marie Médiatrice Izabiriza wondered if different district councillors in the City of Kigali were consulted before drafting the bill and whether the City of Kigali will be responsible for different contracts that its districts have signed with different partners so far.

Minister Shyaka reassured the MPs that the current services delivered by the districts will continue to be delivered as usual at the district level, only that they will be delivered on behalf of the City of Kigali.

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