Rwanda is this morning at it-once again- leading a homegrown African effort to put citizens at the centre of government policy generation and implementation.
For the 13th time since 2003, Rwandans gather at the Rwanda Conference Centre in the heart of the Kigali City in a national dialogue about Rwanda’s future.
This year’s National Dialogue Council (NDC), also known as Umushyikirano in the local dialect, is premised on the theme; ‘ Rwandans’ Choices- Foundation for National Development and Dignity.’
NDC at a Glance:
According to rwandapedia.rw being one of the several homegrown solutions, Umushyikirano translates to a meeting where participants are able to exchange ideas, share experiences and question each other.
“As part of efforts to reconstruct Rwanda and nurture a shared national identity, the Government of Rwanda drew on aspects of Rwandan culture and traditional practices to enrich and adapt its development programs to the country’s needs and context. The result is a set of Home Grown Solutions – culturally owned practices translated into sustainable development programs. One of these Home Grown Solutions is Umushyikirano,” says rwandapedia.rw.
Coordinated under the office of the Prime Minister and governed by the Rwandan Constitution (Article 168), Umushyikirano helps participants debate issues relating to the state of the nation, the state of local government and national unity.
The key highlight of this is the fact that President Paul Kagame himself chairs the two-day event. Like a CEO chairing a staff meeting, Kagame takes charge of all the sessions and directly fields and coordinates questions from citizens, tasking their local leaders on the promises they pledged at the previous Umushyikirano.
It is therefore not uncommon to find Rwandan local leaders on tension at this time of the year. The pressure from the citizens is immeasurable but that’s what servant leadership is all about- thanks to this rare home grown solution, perhaps the first of its kind on the African continent.
The event is attended by members of the Cabinet and Parliament, representatives of the Rwandan community abroad, local government, media, the diplomatic community and others invited by the President. Those unable to attend in person at Rwanda’s parliament building can participate via telephone, SMS, Twitter and Facebook as well as follow the debate live on television and radio.
The first National Dialogue Council took place on 28 June 2003 and has been held each year attracting Rwandans from all walks of life and friends.
“Umushyikirano aims to be a leading example of participatory and inclusive governance. It is hoped that by directly engaging with their leaders, Rwandans feel part of the decision-making that affects their lives. Umushyikirano also serves as a forum for Rwandans to hold their leaders and government to account,” adds rwandapedia.rw.
Successively, each dialogue has attracted about one thousand people who attend the event in person, while thousands more follow the proceedings through live TV coverage, online and radio.
The event of 2012 is perhaps the most intense having attracted a total of 11,127 questions and comments.
“The main achievements of Umushyikirano are considered to be the participation of Rwandans in national decision-making and the fast-tracking of government programs and citizen priorities based on the resolutions tabled each year,” says Vivian Mukakizima, one of the organizers coordinating the media during this year’s event.
The previous dialogues over the years have focused mainly on enhancing domestic savings, home grown initiatives, promoting principles and values of self-reliance, prosperity for generations, strategic skills development, youth empowerment, increased productivity and private sector growth.
It is therefore no longer news that the NDC has been sitting for 13 years and generating workable solutions. It is also no longer news that the dialogue generates action points every year for the leadership to implement on as agreed.
What is news now will be a look at what has been achieved over the past 13 years and how this year’s dialogue will particularly bring this forward. Statistics show that resolutions made at various dialogues have increased from 10 in 2003 to 35 in 2006. But the year 2012 recorded 24 resolutions.
This year’s might record more owing to the quality of attendance with so many Rwandans from the diaspora and friends of Rwanda from around the world.
For today’s session, follow live proceedings can on twitter through the hashtag #Umushyikirano2015 and @RedPepperUg