Rwanda Elects New Local Government Officials

Newly elected mayors in Rwanda's 30 districts will assume office starting next week after winning against the incumbents in elections concluded last week on Friday.

The new leaders will take office amid a litany of challenges occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic and natural disasters that continue to wreak havoc in some parts of the country.

Over 10,000 leaders in local government positions are being replaced in the ongoing polls that had been suspended in February, 2020 due to the pandemic, and are scheduled to officially end on November 26, according to the national electoral commission.

The mayors have been elected to serve for a five year term. The provisional results of the mayoral elections relayed by individual District offices show that out of the thirty mayors, only nine have been reelected to office.

They include those representing Rutsiro, Nyamasheke, Nyabihu, Nyanza, Bugesera, Muhanga, Huye, Ruhango, and Burera districts.

The mayors are have been elected at a time the country is bracing to deal with the impact of drought on the agricultural sector, the mainstay for over 75 per cent subsistence rural farmers.

The effects of the drought are already being felt in arid areas of east-southern provinces including Kirehe, Kayonza, Ngoma as well as parts of Nyagatare and Gatsibo Districts where predominant rain-fed farming hasn't taken place for a season.

The leaders overseeing agriculture sector have allayed fears of massive impact of drought, suggesting it is not on a national scale and there is no risk for a food crisis. However, adverse rains predicted in other parts of the country will call for immediate mitigation measures and interventions.

In the last two years, resources allocated to alleviation of poverty and infrastructure development were utilised in mitigating the effects of weather disasters in almost half of the districts, jeopardising performance of the affected districts in ranking under successive performance contracts.

Data from the Ministry in charge of emergency management reports show eight districts most affected by disasters between January and December 2020 all ranked among the least performing districts in the 2019/2020 Imihigo ranking.

They include Ngororero, Rulindo, Gakenke, Rusizi and Burera, with 142 deaths from 298 nationwide death toll from natural disasters last year.

The districts account for more than 3,738 of the total 8,098 homes damaged countrywide last year.

Besides, the pandemic had adverse impact on key development activities that were planned as both generalised and localised lockdowns, among other virus containment measures brought important projects to a pause in most districts.

"There are works for projects such as roads, housing, water, power and health infrastructures whose completion will have to be expedited ahead of 2024 when the government's seven-year program ends," a former Mayor told Rwanda Today.

The programme also dubbed the National Strategy for Transformation (NST1) lays out key government priorities in a bid to accelerate the transformation and economic growth.

In particular, the new leaders brace for pressure to ensure promises under President Paul Kagame's political agenda are delivered ahead of the presidential elections scheduled in two years.

Previous local government leadership were characterised by instability, following waves of sackings and resignations of officials for reasons ranging from graft allegations, poor performance and internal wrangles.

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